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To Lyon

Saturday – Winter is here and we are learning what this means here on the Italian Riviera. This is not winter as we know it but fortunately it is more or less what we were led to expect otherwise we would not have left so much of our winter wardrobe back in Britain. Here in Torri it is rarely windy, the sun may only peep over the mountains for a few hours in the middle of the day but it warms what it touches, and during the course of our visit we have seen little rain, one day at most. We are told that his lack of rain (so far) is unusual but we are grateful to the weather gods for this. Frost is not impossible here but it must be uncommon or else the beautifully tiled roof terraces would have succumbed long ago.

My French vocabulary continues to improve. Recently added are the words for shovel, screwdriver, pickaxe, cement-mixer and pine-cone. This last word causes us much confusion as the French equivalent, ‘pomme de pin’ translates literally into English as ‘pineapple’, which is not the same thing at all. Translate this word back into French and you get ‘ananas’, at which point you have a very puzzled Frenchman on your hands and a difficult explanation to cope with. Until coming here I had successfully lived through nearly 60 years without needing to be competent in a language other than the one I learnt as a child. Now I have learnt that there is no better way to learn another language than to place yourself in the same position as that young child; surround yourself with voices you have to understand in order to survive. When I help Guy to load his trailer with all his various tools, the fresh vegetables and goodness knows what else he plans to take back to his home in Lyon, it will be another dip into the French language pool. Specialised words like rotavator, chain-saw and drill bit, to say nothing of towing bracket and jockey-wheel, just never came up during my language studies in school – I can’t imagine why.

Sunday – So much for the lack of rain. The journey to Lyon prompted the worst downpour we have experienced yet and proved to be a nightmare of a drive, the roads being awash for much of the time and visibility reduced. Back in Torri we have heard that the river has risen somewhat but it was so low anyway that this is unlikely to cause any harm.
Now in France (hence the Lyon coats of arms) my language challenge continues. Today’s word is ‘noix’ which is French for nut and and also for walnut. This is confusing as it could be interpreted that all nuts are species of walnut but like many things we just have to live with the dilemma and soldier on.

Monday – It all happens in the village of St Bernard. Guy’s chickens found their way into his woodpile, a place they found more comfortable than their own house and this morning he has been rummaging about seeking the eggs they left there. Hens are not blessed with much intelligence, it seems.
A short drive away from us is the Beaujolais wine-growing region, a necessary place for us to visit so that Guy could replenish his wine cellar. After the second wine-tasting my language skills had improved considerably and I was having no trouble at all understanding every aspect of the business of growing grapes.
From a nearby hillside we looked down on a brown landscape devoted entirely to growing grape vines, these now being absent of leaves and in the process of being pruned back to blackened stumps. It seems impossible that these twisted twigs grow enough branch and fruit each year to satisfy the growers, but obviously they do.
Tuesday – The Beaujolais region is perhaps less well-known for its tiny airport. As a former helicopter pilot himself, Guy has a dream that one day he will have his own parked in the drive of his house and it is perhaps only his pension and his wife, NoĆ«lle, that prevent this. But an invitation from a friend to view his own recently purchased helicopter was not something to be missed.
Regrettably my spoken French vocabulary again failed me when the mechanic currently working on this machine began to speak, explaining at some speed in technical terms the various aspects of the complex systems which, one hopes, will keep this beast in the air. My own role was to appear interested without appearing dim, something at which I have become quite adept.

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