17th October – Reims to Saint Erme
I am in Champagne country, in Picardy. I took the train from Reims.
The driver waited patiently
The countryside looked amazing through the train window – flat, on into the distance, great expanses of single colours.
I visited the Artisan Baker and then left my rucksack under a tree as the Intermarché was in the opposite direction and I was tired.
I set off with the additional weight of shopping (root veg and cheese) and the first place of note I passed was the library – so surprising to see one in this small but well resourced village. The three women greeted me effusively and showed me around, asking me questions, instructing me on how to use it and proudly showing their collection of English books. Marie T was just leaving, she said, and offered me a most welcome lift, telling me her incredibly sad personal family ‘death’ story on the way. She said that volunteering at the library had been her lifeline and now she was living again.
I am staying in a old convent (where nuns are or were is always a good place for me). It was used as a prison and a hospital in the past by the Americans and the Gestapo so it has a chequered history.
18th October 2018
Early the first morning, the cockerel (that’s him above, all white and fluffy) asks us why we are not outside yet. He is right, it is a gloriously sunny morning. I found a spot between four silver birch trees for t’ai chi.
Later I was greeted by Johnny the gardener and able to keep practicing my French. Everyone is really friendly.
The hives are not producing honey but they have a local source.
Spiralling up to a pool of sunshine I sit and soak it up, starting my writing.
L from New Zealand crouches in a grotto – he wears nail varnish and makes both art as well as shelves – his contribution to the community.
I move as the sun goes behind trees, finding new spots.
Collecting windfalls – brown, yellow and red; prising walnuts from their damp black coats; snapping hazel shells for a breakfast from the garden.
Someone has made apple cake and roasted some chestnuts which I add to my banquet.
We drink tea and eat homemade cakes during the English conversation group that evening. I learn about some of the local people, their jobs, travels and families. We have a laugh.