'What, off on holiday again?'
Some people say this, perhaps a little incredulously, when we say we are going to France. Admittedly we do come here nine or ten times a year, but it isn't what I would call a holiday, and certainly not in winter.
Here in Normandy the weather has been, and still is, very like what people in UK have been suffering for weeks: strong winds and interminable rain. Thankfully we ourselves have avoided flooding, as many have not, but here in France too we can see the evidence in swollen rivers and submerged fields where, in drier times, horses and cattle graze.
In February I aim to prune trees and shrubs, and we have a fallen tree that needs logging - but not in torrential rain. There are tiles missing from the garage roof that need to be replaced - but not if it's blowing a gale. So perhaps it is a bit of a holiday after all, as we huddle by the fire, or go shopping for friends' commissions.
Even at this bleakest time of year the valley is beautiful with its muted shades of brown, grey and green. The signs of spring are there in catkins waving on bare hazel twigs, crocuses pushing up through the sodden grass, primroses studding the banks, and the first daffodils opening their sunny petals in sheltered spots. Great tits and chaffinches are visiting our bird table now that I have supplied fresh food, and buzzards perch on the telephone poles scouring the verges for prey, even as the wind ruffles their feathers.The last photo is of a pile of manure in the field next to our garden - farmers find plenty to do whatever the time of year.