Lots of people have asked “don’t you get lonely?”, the answer is of course yes. Saying that, I was often lonely when I lived in London, Leicester and even in Montpellier. If anything, I’m less lonely now and that’s thanks to, well Nick obviously, but mainly the animals. They will always bring a smile to my face, even on my lowest days and seem to just know when you need a little TLC.
Here in Aveyron is no exception, Wilkie, a French Basset hound born during the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, won my heart within seconds. It could be the strawberry blond curls that mask his eyes, but he’s a “proper” dog. He’s lying half in the sun guarding the front door as we speak.
His companion, Lucie the cat, has likewise stolen my affection, despite the holes in my knee made by her claws. Another kitten raised in the company of a dog, she comes on walks with us, and makes me miss our feline friends, Viva and BlueBlue.
The two biggest surprises though are Léon and Pépinot, the newest addition to our animalian CV, the donkeys.
Having looked after the goats in Ireland, I was looking forward to meeting the donkeys, but also a little reticent due to their size. Now we’re here, I needn’t have been, they are the most adorable soft-natured creatures and will definitely be added to the menagerie chez Nick and Mel when we do finally settle down. I have heeded the warnings not to get near their back end though and having witnessed them kicking each other will continue to do so.
Most people assume that we’re on holiday when we reach a new sit. This of course is not the case, we both work pretty long hours, but we do have the bonus of beautiful settings to do it in. This French farmhouse is no exception, nestled into the hills on the banks of the river Lot we are technically in Aveyron, but a stone’s throw from Cantal, where they make the cheese. Yes, it does always come back to cheese.
An area we’ve never visited, it is very much like the nearby Cevennes, craggy, rocky, but green. This is probably the perfect place to see the first real spring I’ve seen in years. Montpellier seems to go straight from winter to summer, but here you can actually see the buds forming on the trees, almost hear the grass growing and the bugs that are emerging are something else.
Every morning and evening we are roused from whatever we are doing, by a sound that is difficult to describe, something like a viking horn or an old ship’s foghorn. It’s the bray of the donkeys, keen for their twice daily snack of leftover bread and pastries from the family salon de thé Le Petit Chou. We went to the next door Chou Rouge, for tapas last night and it was delicious.
Wilkie, clearly knowing we were heading out for the evening refused to re-enter the house, we couldn’t even coax him with a dog biscuit. The noise he made as I locked the door, after we’d eventually got him inside, was gut wrenchingly cute and I’m glad that we don’t have to leave him often. That’s the bonus of working from home I guess and these house-sits are as much about the animals as the places. I’d never even considered keeping donkeys before this week, I hope they get on with the geese!