I, for one, am always greatly appreciative of the Great British attitude towards the Great British weather when it comes to that ever elusive season, the Great British Summer. Every year, without fail, the shops are filled with yet more products to help turn those pale, pasty pins a nice shade of magnolia (rather than the traditional goosebump-blue), as brave British females, the length of the country, prepare to ditch the tan tights and thermal long johns, as they boldly bare all in the name of Summer. Around the end of May, the sun appears reluctantly, peering through the one small hole in an otherwise impenetrable, grey, clouded sky, just long enough for the local Tesco to have a run on hot dog buns and disposable barbecues, as we all bolt for the nearest patch of grass before once again the Heavens open and we’re all left traipsing about with trench foot, determined not to remove our soggy sandals until at least the end of September.
This year, it seems we have surpassed ourselves on the wet weather front and by the end of last month, clad in several layers of socks, scarves and woolly jumpers, nursing sore throats and snotty noses, my best friend, Lucie and I had had quite enough. These were desperate times but in our darkest hour of need, there, shining out of the dim, grey drizzle that was the prospect of spending our entire Summer devoid of flip-flops, vitamin D and any real reason to leave the house other than to stock up with more sand bags, stood our answer… Ryanair. So, a few weeks later we jumped on a plane to the South of France where we rented a cheap little flat in the small but perfectly formed coastal, market town of Marseillan-ville. (Now, there was a part of me that felt I really was betraying my roots by running away to warmer climes but for a £70 return ticket, I found I was more than happy to abandon my moral objections in favour of some much-needed sunshine and all the croissants I could eat.)
We did the whole thing on a shoestring budget, living mostly off locally grown fruit and veg, freshly baked bread and pastries and a glass or two of wine, bought for us by admiring Frenchman, ‘Salut les filles!’ We quickly established a daily routine of a lazy, late breakfast, a bit of reading and a nap, lunch, more reading, a walk down to the beach, more napping (in the sun!?), perhaps a paddle, then home for a shower and an iced coffee before dinner, followed by maybe another evening walk down to the port and then bed.
That really was our entire week and for a week it was amazing but I don’t know how people do it for any longer… if I’d done any more relaxing I think I’d have gone mad… or dissolved into the sofa, one of the two. Of course, the week was not without its drama which came in the form of an immensely creepy seventy-two year old ex-pat who lived next door and spent a good four days trying to persuade us that it would be a good idea to let him take us to the local nudist beach and get us drunk on champagne. Needless to say, after a string of steadily more elaborate excuses, he seemed to get the message and reluctantly left us in peace.
Highlights of the week included fresh morning pastries that were being baked only moments away from our flat, an amazing fireworks display, a morning spent wandering through a lovely local market and our one meal out that we spent the entire week saving up for… maybe one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
We flew from Béziers to Bristol and were returning to our little flat in Bath so the whole journey from door to door took less than five hours. It was sad to leave the sunshine behind us but as we descended back into that good old damp, green greyness that us locals call home, Lucie looked out fondly at the familiar impending drizzle, “You know…” She said. “I am dying for a cup of tea.”