It’s been windy here all week. The days start gray and overcast, though without so much as a threat of rain, but then blush with colour so that by mid-afternoon (like right now) we have bright sun and blue skies. And that continues until at least nine o’clock. 

Louisa is vexed about the wind, which followed us back to Brittany all the way from our recent trip to Zaragoza. As an American, she expects the seasons to know their business. It’s June now and that should mean hot Sun pretty well every day all the way through until September. 

But that’s not the way it is in Europe north of the 45th parallel, which in France runs from just north of Bordeaux to Valence, south of Lyon, and on across the Alps, via Grenoble, into Piedmont. Brittany, though quite a trek south of the UK’s south coast, has much the same climate as Cornwall, to which it is historically linked. Summer temperatures here are probably a degree or two above those in the West Country, but the difference much of the time is marginal. What we do have, in abundance, is rain. 

Or at least we did. I read a piece in Le Figaro a couple of months back which revealed that Brittany was one of only two or three regions in France where rainfall over the winter and spring was more or less normal. I wasn’t surprised. The skies had opened every day for at least a month. Since then, however, we haven’t had a drop. If heavy clouds that don’t produce rain can be described as a false dawn, then that is what we have had since late April. 

On the other hand, the afternoon sunshine, extending into late evening, has been a delight. One of the peculiarities of Brittany is that it sits between 150 and 300 miles west of the Greenwich meridien, yet conforms to French standard time, which puts it one hour ahead of London. In late June, this means that it doesn’t get completely dark until well after eleven. 

In Callac, where café society goes al fresco round about now, the bars and restaurants are starting to unfurl their big umbrellas. But with the wind blowing in gusts of up to 30 mph, it is best to proceed with caution. Everything can go flying, and a lunch that starts off as if in Tuscany can end with with more than a nod to Norfolk. 

Right now, as I look outside my window, the tall birch on the edge of our field is swaying like a fishing boat at sea, causing me to wonder when one of its heavier branches, extending out from the trunk at an angle of 45 degrees, will finally give up the struggle. The truth is, I will almost certainly go first, but when the bough breaks I wouldn’t want to be standing anywhere near. 

The pétanque season, of which I am now a part thanks to our new German neighbour, Bertie, is meanwhile in full swing. Yesterday, there were nine of us, which is an awkward number. We divided into two teams of four, with each player allocated three boules, and one of two versus three, with the three allowed just two boules each. 

New to the scene was Roland, a recently-arrived retiree from Brussels, who with his wife  has moved into a massive house, just opposite the sports ground, previously owned by a local businessman who has himself retired and moved to Italy. Roland is a jolly fellow, who obviously did well for himself over a long career. His new house, to which he invited us for post-match drinks, is you would have to say, magnifique, renovated and decorated by professionals and adorned with tasteful furnishings and lamps. 

The rest of us, I suspect, were somewhat awed by the opulence. I certainly was. I asked old Marcel, the grizzled doyen of pétanque in these parts, if Roland’s maison de maître reminded him of his own house. In reponse he offered me a wry smile – though it later transpired that though he has lived in Callac all his life, he also owns a town house in Nantes. 

Much was discussed over the drinks table: the cost of car insurance; the best way to establish boundaries between neighbours; ways round the dental desert to which Callac has reently been confined; and, movingly, for a reason that I didn’t quite catch, the childhood of one of our number whose mother abandoned him as a baby so that he was subsequently raised by several familles d’accueil (foster parents) in the village. 

It can be difficult to keep up with the heavily accented French used among themselves by old friends. I didn’t understand everything that was said – much of it through guffaws– but caught the drift and even managed to throw in one of two observations of my own that were, I choose to think, appreciated as evidence I was making the necessary effort. Our host, by contrast, spoke Bruxelloise, a slower, jauntier version of French, causing one of his new friends to speculate when they would first hear septante, for seventy, rather than the French soixante-dix. How we laughed! 

The next step in my (and Louisa’s) belated integration into Callac society is scheduled for a date next month when Bertie celebrates his 66th birthday. We are all invited, including as guests of honour, our other new German neighbour, Thomas, who shares the same birthday as Bertie, and his Russian wife, Julia. The craic, as my father might possibly once have said, will be great. 

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