January is a slow month. This is the first time we have spent any more than a few days of January in France. Last year we were snowed-in in Derbyshire while Fred the contractor was busy grappling with the weather chez nous to get our new fosse septique installed. The month dragged on as we waited anxiously for updates about how the project was progressing.
In the years before that we only ever spent at most the first couple of days of January at our little house in the village, snatching a few precious days over the Christmas and New Year holidays before returning home to the UK and to work. We would struggle through January and February, fighting our way in to work in awful weather, our few days in France helping to sustain us and keep our pecker up as we looked forward to returning in the warmer months.
So this year we are spending most of January in France for the very first time. It might not be fair to make a comparison between Derbyshire and France at this time of year. After all, winters do vary so much year from year. This has been a mild winter on both sides of the channel but I feel that it is more pleasant here in France. Maybe that has more to do with the other differences than the weather – I’ll leave the discussion about those for another post.
On grey, wet days we have knuckled down and got on with indoor work. Nick has been working his way through the finishing off jobs in the house, varnishing the stairs, painting the new walls and woodwork in the buanderie, fitting knobs and shelves, all the fiddly bits that take so much time.
On the bright, sunny and even warm days we have made the most of it. Our new bicycles have had a couple of outings (more about them later) and we have taken long walks with Lulu.
It has been a month of extremes, of opposites almost. Within the space of seven days we have had snow, frost, rain, drizzle, fog and glorious sunshine. So warm and glorious that we fetched the garden chairs from the barn, dusted off the cobwebs and ate lunch outdoors.
This has been a first for us. The first time ever that we have not had to struggle in to work regardless of the weather. The first time that we have been able to decide what to do each day according to the weather and how we feel. Nothing pressing, no builders expected at unearthly hours, only ourselves to please, to work our way through the daily chores and the list of jobs.
This is, I think, what retirement is all about. No more trains to catch, no more deadlines to meet. Only the weather to dictate what we do today. For the first time I can remember I have gone to bed at night not worrying about anything much, just wondering what I will do tomorrow, according to the weather. I used to dread the first two months of the year, every year, so it feels good to find that winter can be not so bad, after all.
I rather like it, this slow month.