The Mistral is blowing again out of nowhere, chilling and wicked and unpredictable, bringing crystalline skies and streets full of turmoil and laughter. There are hearty cheers when a plastic table goes skidding across the square from the café; and wild applause every time a wrap - we are trussed up again in the shawls and jumpers of April - every time a long Sabletian wrap untangles itself from its wearer and soars up over the roofs of the village. The glorious Mistral!, and now the village is peopled with children, 50 years, 60 years, 70-year-old arthritic children - because who can be old with such naughtiness all through the air, such blue in the sky, such terrible mischief about to blow up in an instant, down any lane, around any corner?
And still we’re surprised on a trip in search of les Celliers Amadieu - a trip with a deadine because we have guests arriving next week, and we need to try this wine that has been recommended by someone we know to trust – we are surprised, when we stop by the road to plug in the tomtom and there, upon us, literally out of the blue, quite magically there is a tiny old lady, laughing, and chirruping French so specific, so regional, that we're lost and can’t make head nor tail of it. Have we parked her in? Does she need something from us? Is there an emergency? (But how could there be an emergency with that naughtiness all through her face, that merriment spilling and dancing around her?) But yes, une urgence, she agrees, and I leave the car and she pulls my arm, quickly! quickly! and Paul is there too, swept up in her spell. We come to a tiny rise, and below, her field is stretched out before us, and there! "Regardez! L’abre, la!”
A tree – a beautiful tree, in an empty field: but she loses her patience then and pinches my arm.
"Les cerises"! The cherries! And she has had her fill and they’ll only last for a week, and look! - she’s pulled us down under the tree in a chaos of cherries and leaves, and she’s grabbing them, handful on handful, "Quickly! Before the Mistral can get them - mangez! Mangez!" Then she’s bolted back up to the car, grabbed my basket and tells us to fill it! Fill! so we join her in fits of laughter, this darling, this wicked, this windblown grandmother who tells us “Quickly! Or they will be gone!”
We bring them home, and after we’ve eaten as much as we can and more, and with the basket still heavy, Paul turns them into a sauce (cherries, lavender honey, balsamic vinegar, red peppercorns for citrus and shallots for a taste of the earth) that he serves with a fat pan-fried duck-breast.
And later, blessing Laura because such a long time ago in an artisan shop in the Hunter Valley she told me “Look at these! You'll wish you had them when you find somebody really special, somebody magic”, we go back to thank the Cherry grandmother, armed with a gum-nut teaspoon, and a packet of Diggers seeds. Sturt Desert Pea. They might not take, but if they do, they will fit very well in a garden that’s all old rocks and snow-in-summer and
And here we are, windblown.