One of the things I love about blogging is the interaction with other bloggers. “Homesick and Heatstruck” recently published a bittersweet description of her balcony in Dubai, in which she describes not only the environment she sees from it, but also the sounds and the smells that invade her senses, and the thoughts and feelings that assail her there as an expat girl far from home. She suggested that I do a similar post to share with her. The view from my balcony is completely different. So here it is, H&H!
Little My has the best bedroom in the joint, in so far that she has a real Romeo and Juliette -style balcony. Any budding Cyrano had better watch his step, though; the first poor soul that dares climb up there to recite poetry to my daughter may well find himself facing her disgruntled father, armed with a Black & Decker drill.
Juliette Little My was on her balcony this morning when I sneaked up on her and took this snap. She was soaking up the view and the first rays of sunshine. Arms resting on the black wrought iron and eyes fixed on the horizon, she was dreaming as the wooden shutters with flaking grey paint creaked gently beside her in the spring breeze.
She had just watered her new babies – two garden boxes of delicately coloured, overtly feminine carnations. I pointed enthusiastically at the garish, fun pansies at the garden nursery yesterday, but Little My had already been seduced by their girly neighbours with frilly leaves and was enthusiastically cooing “Ooh, Mamaaaaan, elles sont trop belles!” I couldn’t say no.
I joined my daughter outside, and turned my face to the sun. Closing my eyes, I enjoyed that childhood thrill of seeing nothing but red through my eyelids as I basked in the sunshine. Closing your eyes accentuates the smells and the sounds around you. The smells: fresh earth as PF gardened below, wood smoke as the neighbours burned their garden cuttings, the aroma of fresh coffee wafting out of the neighbour’s open door. The sounds: Bigfoot and Rugby-boy laughing as they threw the rugby ball to and fro. The occasional blaring of car horns on the village bridge, signalling the presence of intrepid baguette hunters returning home from the boulangerie in their battered Citroëns. Smelly dog growling suspiciously at the sound of footsteps, perceptible only to her, as morning walkers wandered down the lane.
The loudest noise by far was the staccato of sparrows, finches and blue tits chirping indignantly in the huge cedar tree. I opened my eyes and saw why: the magpies were winding them up, balanced high in the tree and machine-gunning them with their raucous, rasping chatter.
The branches of the cedar tree practically touch the windows of our house, and the morning chorus usually wakes me long before the alarm goes off. As spring moves on, the sound of nature increases until it becomes part and parcel of life inside the house – particularly at night. We have a pair of nightingales that nest nearby every year, and soon they will be back. They aren’t called nightingales for nothing. Firstly, Mr Nightingale sings to seduce Madame nightingale. Daddy nightingale sings perfectly, and very loudly, from the branch in front of my bedroom window…. All bloody night. Every night, until the sun comes up to put us out of our misery. Last year, he did it for six long weeks, and only stopped once his kids had their pilot’s licences, Biggles goggles firmly strapped to their heads for take-off.
Now I love birdsong, don’t get me wrong. But a little like having Pavarotti rehearsing La Traviata at the end of your bed at three in the morning, you can get too much of a good thing. After two weeks of constant nocturnal birdsong, even David Attenborough would end up having visions of nightingales on skewers turning over a hot camp fire. I can hear you all telling me I’m a fiend. Well, listen to this and imagine listening to it all night, then think it over.
My other favourites are the owls – at the end of the post there’s a picture we took of the cute little guy who got hooted through to independence by his mum and dad last year. He was sitting on the wall and scared the pants off me when he glared at me on my way home from the boulangerie one evening.
In May the midwife toad chorus starts up, echoing back and forth along the stream as soon as night falls. I love that time of year, sleeping with the windows open and listening to the wind in the branches and the concert of toads, owls and crickets. I feel like I’m on a Disney Princess trip every time, and secretly hope that I’m going to open my eyes to see a frog playing a banjo on my windowsill.
Then the cicadas will kick in for the sultry, hot summer afternoons. And we’ll have to keep an eye out for the bats: they find their way in, but can’t find their way out. The cat goes mad, Rugby-boy laughs himself stupid, and Bigfoot runs around in circles filming the thing.
So there you go. Hope you enjoyed the view from M.M’s pad. I’m sending birdsong your way, H&H, and hope that this post gave you a bit of a hoot until you get some real birdsong to listen to.