By Christine Palmer
My husband said after reading this blog, it sounds like Thought for the Day. That hurt, as he knows how I detest Thought for the Day and would happily stamp on the radio when I am unfortunate enough to hear it. Sadly, he is often right, so forgive me if this piece sounds as if it has been written by a well meaning know-all. Honestly that's not my style.
Living in France doesn't mean that one can escape all things English. And why should one want to anyway? I love my country, I am proud to come from Great Britain. But I, and I suspect thousands like me, are fed up with the constant to-ing and fro-ing between Brexit and Remain. I have always taken particular pride that I am European, and feel deeply saddened that maybe in the not-too-distant future I will not be able to walk into one European country and out of another without having to show my passport. In the past few years I have walked from England, through France, Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal and Spain without having to show any ID. Most of these routes have followed the medieval pilgrim's paths, and like my medieval predecessors I have wandered freely, and nine times out of 10 I have been made to feel welcome wherever I have decided to rest for a night, or take a day off to explore the region. But times they are a-hanging, and I fear I must reluctantly change with them.
On Monday, with these thoughts in my head, the dogs and I set off for our walk, along our river. Walking I find is a great way of clearing my head, or more accurately laundering the morning BBC news in the hope of coming to some conclusion about what exactly is going on in the world. Our beautiful Serein (Serene) River had, like many of our politicians, failed to live up to its name, and had flooded yet again. The water had died down, but our usual track was a touch of the Bambi On Ice experience. As we picked our way carefully along the bank, the dogs for once held back as we could hear the sound of high-powered saws. As we rounded the bend, our normal vista had completely changed. Gone were the long avenue of tall birch trees festooned with enormous balls of mistletoe. Instead there was a tangle of around thirty chopped down trees, their branches being attacked by a group of workman. It was quite devastating: the whole curve in the river looked totally different.
I should explain that our region of Burgundy is famous for its tall trees that are hung with balls of mistletoe throughout the year. The mistletoe is nigh impossible to reach as it's so high, but each Christmas I do challenge, in a blatantly girly way, the men in my life to have a go and get one down for me. Feeling really upset, I still felt obliged to greet the several workmen. They were a jolly crowd, and easy to understand as none of them was French, so spoke the language with all the eccentricity that I do. I was also well aware that the balls of mistletoe, however beautiful they are, do weaken the trees. This, the workman explained, was the reason why they were being cut down. They didn't seem to share my grief over the fallen trees, but were more keen to assure me that they would stop chopping and sawing as the dogs and I walked by.
We continued on our normal route somewhat dejected, but then the sun burst through, and along the edge of the enormous field we were following appeared thousands of tiny blue flowers, like a border around a carpet. The field takes on the contours of the meandering river, and so did the bright blue border. We could still hear the workman in the distance, but another sound broke through. A flock of… well to be honest I'm not sure whether they were cranes or storks, flying overhead. Decidedly cheered, and with Crumble bouncing along the border of blue, we continued our route.
On the way back, the workmen had gone, and as we rounded the corner, I was surprised that actually the demise of the avenue of trees had, of course, opened up the view across the river. We could now quite clearly see the old Mill, and a field of Charolais cattle gazing at us curiously as we completed our walk. So things change, not always to our liking of course, but change they will, and sometimes it's not all bad.