Spring in January.

It was such a glorious day, sunny and warm (19°C/66°F) I decided to take my phone with me and go down to inspect the Caillou, the stream at the bottom of the ‘garden’. We’ve been on flood alert because the Garonne burst its banks in the section from our little town to where the Lot joins it a short distance upstream. I had Finbar with me and holding his lead as well as trying to take pics was not easy.

I managed to get most of the stationary objects despite lead-tug, but impossible to catch the lizards racing over the house walls, and the butterflies.

The grass around the house is full of tiny flowers like Speedwell.

blue flower2

The land slopes down to the stream and has got pretty boggy. The Lords and Ladies don’t seem to mind.

lords and ladies

And the first Kingcups are opening.


This is the point where our land meets the neighbour’s and the Caillou goes under a farm track.


In the far bank there is a large hole. It isn’t manmade so it’s not a drain, and I don’t think it’s a spring because there is no current coming out of it. Whatever made it is a fair size and doesn’t mind swimming.


This is one of the old willows that we hope to have saved.


Many of the poplars along the bank are covered in ivy. Some are dead but the woodpeckers like them so for the moment we’re leaving them alone. This oak would probably appreciate having its ivy trimmed. I thought the deer were supposed to do that.


This is probably about as high as our little stream is going to get. There’s more rain forecast but not enough to make a difference to us.

Caillou High

Spring is already bubbling under. Unfortunately I can’t photograph the thrush’s song. It fills the whole valley.



Looking through a tourist brochure, I admire the pictures, the snaps of familiar places, monuments I walk past every day, and I think, yes, it’s an attractive town. But the pictures lie, because they are just pictures. They show what a place looks like, not what it is. They show the fountains and the happy children splashing, the riverside walk where the skateboarders, cyclists and strollers cohabit. It looks like that, it really does, and the sky is as blue as in the photos and the river runs, the trees bow and sway. The flowers bloom and the tourists point their telephones and cameras.

But where is the homeless man who always sits on the same bench, the drunk asleep among the hibiscus? Where is the strange lady dressed all in yellow with artificial flowers in her hair, feeding the pigeons? I see no dog dirt and litter, no dog walkers discussing politics, no policemen asking the Rastaman to move on, no municipal gardeners armed with rakes and spades telling them to leave him alone. Where is the Gypsy couple with their plastic bags of belongings and their cat, the group of Bulgarian men fishing for catfish, the quiet-spoken Algerian reading the Koran?

Life is not just smiling blond-haired children and their youthful parents. There is dirt and difficulty, broken glass and broken hearts. There are sleek gulls and swans gliding, but huddled in the spring sunshine, there are pigeons with deformed feet waiting to die. The pictures are real and true. But they lie.


Not blue sky, not grey,

brown river or crystal clear,

but nuanced, like life.