Saturday 1 November 2008
IF - Vacant (NaBloPoMo #1)
France. We've just come back - full of food and wine, brie and bon viver. The air was clear and mellow, the countryside breathtaking in a fiery shimmer of autumn colour and plump with harvest abundance. Chestnuts and truffles, ceps and pink garlic, oysters and artichokes - an indulgence of seasonal treasures were piled high in the market stalls. But there were little moments of sadness, too........'Vacant'
The transformation of a considerable portion of central and southern France's countryside into a ruin-strewn wilderness is sad testament to a time when farmers are leaving the land in ever-increasing numbers, often because they are too old to go on farming and have no willing successors. The beautiful stone built houses and barns once filled with the warmth and laughter of an extended family now stand vacant, slowly being reclaimed by their surroundings. We tiptoe like intruders along the rutted track to peer into the silence. Sunlight streams through broken windows and shafts cruelly across the dusty neglect. Shutters hang crookedly from broken hinges and geckos scuttle down weathered walls. A long wooden table stands in a courtyard shaded by the greens and golds of an ancient, overgrown vine. Once laden with gleaming bowls of fruit, platters of cheese and baskets of freshly baked bread, it is festooned now with cobwebs and bird droppings. A breeze ripples the vine leaves, moaning softly and rooks craw hoarsely from a distance. The air of melancholy and abandonment becomes tangible.