It’s so hard to say Au Revoir, so let’s just say Hors d’Oeuvre.
Autumn arrived with something of a bang a few weeks back. On October 16th it was 28C and bright sunshine, on October 17th it was 18C and raining. And it continued to rain for the next month! We’re having the wettest autumn since we arrived here, back in 2020; it’s almost like being back in the UK!
On the plus side, after two very hot and very dry summers, we really needed the water, and the colour change in the woodlands has been impressive, with oranges and reds showing in many trees after the sugar build up in the leaves this year, so there are definite compensations but I’m already missing the summer. Autumn does seem relatively short here; with summer weather lingering well into October and winter threatening to show up at any time, it feels like autumn is just a few weeks from late October into November and that, by December, winter will be showing its face. The good news, of course, is that means spring won’t be so far away. Once we’re through December and Christmas is out of the way the world always looks a more enjoyable place to me. I’ve spoken before about my aversion to the Christmas ‘season’ and it does suit me well that it’s such a low-key holiday here. Also, having arrived in early December 2020, this will be my fourth Christmas of not having to hear Slade or Wizzard belt out those awful songs – that alone makes the move worthwhile.
Before I descend into a full Grinch rant I’ll leave it at that and wish you all that you might wish yourselves for whichever holiday you’re celebrating over the holidays period – or not, as the case may be.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s still a surprise how much different life here is in the winter months. Unlike the UK, where life goes on in much the same way throughout the year, just with more or less clothing, here there’s a very distinct difference between winter life and the rest of the year. Everything slows down and many shops, restaurants, bars and public attractions close down for the winter months and those that do stay open do so on much reduced hours. We had some friends visiting from the UK in midweek, in mid-November, and we struggled a bit to find something to do, though it did get us to the excellent Modern Art Museum in the chateau at Rochechouart and to the castle where Richard the Lionheart received the wound that ended his life. He was shot by a crossbowman during the siege of the small castle at Chalus-Chabrol (little more than a defensive tower) in March 1199 and died from gangrene 10 days later. He’d been a poor King, spending less than 6 months in Britain during a ten year reign and taxing the country heavily to fund his crusades in the Middle East, yet history still holds him up as some sort of epitome of British royalty. Given that the siege of Chalus-Chabrol was probably over a disputed tax payment, history may have a point.
Like Richard the Lionheart’s tenure as King, all things must pass, and this will be the last of these columns for Americana UK. I’ve been writing for AUK for 6 years now, and this column has been going for 2 of those years, and I feel like I’ve run out of new things to say about Americana music – so it’s time to quit before I start repeating myself (something that has, no doubt, already begun) and I’m leaving the magazine at the end of the year. It has been a huge amount of fun and I hope, after a little while pursuing other projects, I’ll return to these pages. For those of you who read this column (yes, both of you!), if you’d like to continue to read about the life of a Brexit escapee in South West France, you can do so here, as I’m migrating this column to a personal blog, with our editor Mark’s blessing, for which I’m grateful. It will be a little different, as there’ll be less about music and the search for Americana in Europe, though I’m sure I’ll find an excuse for the occasional music track.
When we left the UK in 2020, in a mad scramble to get out before the drawbridge was raised, we had no real idea of what the future held, all I knew was that, as someone who believes passionately in a united Europe, I didn’t want to stay in a country that seemed intent on isolating itself from the wider continent. It has been a fascinating three years and, while there have been many frustrations – my own struggle to get to grips with the language, French bureaucracy, the difficulty of finding reliable tradespeople and a host of other petty issues – it remains one of the best moves I’ve ever made. This is a beautiful country, full of warm and friendly people, jaw-dropping views and some of the best food and wine in the world; and an increasingly interesting live music scene that embraces a lot of genres, the list of which is, slowly, coming to include Americana. I plan to continue to write about all these things in some shape or form.
Thanks to all who have read my various articles for AUK and thanks to this great community of writers who have made my time at Americana UK so enjoyable. Now, for those who didn’t recognise the quote at the top of the page, I leave you with the words of the great Martin Mull.