Well, if you are reading this you, like Michel and myself, are still here. Thank heavens. We have all struggled through and reached December of this crazy, rollercoaster of a year of 2020.
Earlier, back in the spring, which seems like many lifetimes ago now, I lost two very dear friends to Covid. Naturally, I was very down about it though it felt too unreal to fully take on board. We were in lockdown so I could not travel, could not attend their funerals or pay my respects. Even now, there are days when I feel as though I have imagined these episodes – bad dreams, and that I could pick up the phone and there they would be, at the end of the line chatting away, oblivious to my nightmares. It has been that kind of year, hasn’t it? We have all been existing in vacuums that question our individual realities and our mortality.
I am thinking how much more challenging it has been for those of you living alone, isolated from your loved ones. Michel and I certainly recognise how very fortunate we are to have one another. We have spent almost the entire year in each other’s pockets, on the farm, working the land, observing Nature unfold her myriad surprises one day at a time. We enjoyed a spring and summer with many warm days,one succeeding another; each offering us clear blue skies, crstal views to the sea and mountains due to less pollution.
I think this extraordinary clarity of light, the stillness, the delight in standing still, listening to a bird warbling, the lack of traffic or planes overhead: these will be a few of the more upbeat, abiding memories of this year. Everything has unrolled one day at a time, one minute after another. No dashing to catch a flight, unpacking suitcases, throwing washing in the machine, repacking, hurrying out the gate again. Each day has been a full experience with nowhere to go except perhaps the boulangerie. Yet our days have been jampacked with the minutiae of daily life, and what a pleasure that has been.
Throughout this year until September, I have worked diligently on AN ACT OF LOVE, my latest novel. It will be published in late April 2021. I worked on edits, rewrites and corrections and then the proofs. I was able to bury myself in the universe of my novel; the world of a seventeen-year-old refugee who during WWII has escaped with her parent to this south-eastern corner of France, which was, until November 1943, the Free Zone. Sara, that’s the name of the principal character, also finds herself inhabiting an alternative universe. She and her family were hiding, escaping war, which I was able to tell myself was a darn sight harder than our Covid problems.
Since September, I have written the first few chapters of what I hope will be my next novel and I have been busy structuring ideas for a TV series. One of the areas I have missed more than anything this year is the world of entertainment/acting: cinema, film, theatre. The other Carol. She who (unintentionally) left behind her acting life to begin another story over here in France. I cannot quite explain why this year of isolation due to Covid should have brought this yearning to a level that has felt almost painful, but it has. The global pandemic has had an appalling affect on live entertainment. I have watched on helplessly, from the wings as it were, as theatres and cinemas went dark, leaving many freelancers who have always been employed in the arts with no income whatsoever to pay their bills, earn their livelihoods. It has reminded me of the tribe I am a member of, and always will be.
My evenings, certainly since I delivered An Act of Love, have been dedicated to watching films. A few television series such as Marseille with the very wonderful Gérard Depardieu but predominantly cinema films. I have a vast collection of DVDs and I have been putting it to good use. We had a Film Noir fortnight, an Italian Neorealism week, another of classic French movies … it has been wonderful and a fruitful education.
So, fingers crossed, my time will not have been wasted and I might have a TV series to offer at the end of this, creating jobs for others!
Our land work has gone from planting in the spring: fruit trees and M’s famous oak forest project – he now has about fifty small oak saplings and these he hopes to plant out in the early spring of 2021.
We have been clearing the many trees felled by winds. All need to be sawn and stacked and the residue burned. We have enjoyed some wonderful bonfires while watching the sunset and with a well-earned glass of wine to hand.
Autumn brought us a very modest olive harvest. The trees were laden and it should have been a mighty haul but we had no one to help us (For those of you who remember him from my Olive Farm books, Quashia came back for a few days and lent us a hand) Otherwise, the picking was achieved by the two of us. The oil we have pressed is truly exceptional but the quantity is minimal. Still, I am grateful even for that.
Year’s end. Christmas is approaching. Michel and I will not be spending any of the holidays with our families, nor New Year’s Eve with friends. We will be, as we have been all year, on our own. For the moment – until later this week – France remains in lockdown. As of Wednesday, we move into a stricter curfew. It’s challenging but the prospect of higher sickness rates, hospitalisations and death tolls are far worse.
Most importantly a vaccine is on the way. There is a light shining into 2021.
So, until next time, I wish you all a peaceful holiday season, without stress or loneliness. If you are alone, please hook up to my Olive Farm Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/olive.farm, where you will find an entire community of wonderful, generous people who will offer you a word, a smile, an opportunity of exchange. Communication is the best gift.
I am sending love to you wherever you are. Stay safe, keep in touch, please don’t take unnecessary risks, look after yourselves – keep reading and watching films – and here’s to a riotously good 2021. We all deserve it!