Where summer went

This week we are expecting the first gales of autumn with heavy rain forecast for many areas of Britain.  Children have been back at school for a week or two and huge tins of chocolates are appearing in the supermarkets ready for Christmas.  I had a sort of writer’s block for most of the summer, but I expect it was just a busy time in my life, fortunately relieved by some travelling down into France – for some reason I’d rather drive down into France more than any other type of holiday.

Classic cars queuing at Newhaven Ferry terminal

We live near the ferry port of Newhaven and every morning I see the boat ready to leave port on its four hour journey across the channel to Dieppe.  This year saw the 70th anniversary of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid, a sort of preparation for D-Day when boats left Newhaven laden with commandos, few of whom returned home.  Nowadays the only Dieppe Raid consists of large groups of vintage cars heading down to Le Mans for one of the classic motor-racing events.

This year we spent a week in the Loire Valley and then drove on down to the Dordogne, an area we’d not visited before.  We stayed in a gite in the mediaeval town of Sarlat and spent our time visiting the many beautiful location on the Dordogne river – villages built into the side of great cliffs, fabulous little towns perched on mountains and beautiful gardens (whoever said the English are a nation of gardeners should have said it about the French also).

The hanging gardens of Marqueyssac

Marqueyssac was quite an amazing place, being situated high above the Dordogne with the most amazing view points from the top of the gardens –

View over the Dordogne to the village of La Roque Gageac

To get back to books, I read quite a few good books this summer but the highlight for me was to read the whole of William Nicholson’s trilogy of Sussex Life which began with The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life, , continued with All The Secret Lovers, and ended with The Golden Hour.  Set in a small Sussex village in the commuter belt,  I don’t think any other books quite succeed in capturing the contemporary life of “Middle England” with its wayward teenagers, angst-ridden middle-agers, unfaithful couples and difficult grandparents.

The benefit of a trilogy is that at least for the first two volumes you see “what happened next”, and with characters as strongly drawn as Nicholson’s you definitely get the feeling of missing the cast when the book finishes.  A really great read, on a par with Gerard Woodward’s Jones family trilogy which brought me such pleasure a few years ago.

On this dull autumn morning I’m going to leave this post with one more photograph to remind me of our French travels, this one being of Sarlat in the Dordogne.

Sarlat is famous as being a centre for the production of paté de foie gras, but I’ll leave that to one side for the sake of the geese, and just say that its the most perfectly preserved mediaeval town I’ve ever visited.  We were there in June/July  when the crowds weren’t too bad but its probably a place to avoid in high summer.  Off season its definitely a place to visit and is a credit to the good stewardship of the town council who have stimulated such a sympathetic restoration of the town centre.

Sarlat

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