We are olive harvesting at present. It is one of the farm activities that I find the most relaxing, particularly during the glorious November days we are experiencing. The leaves of the olive tree, dried, steeped in hot water and drunk as a tisane, are supposed to be a very efficient remedy for high blood pressure. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from HBP. Still, I find standing for hours gently picking olives by hand really concentrates the mind, calms me and puts me back in touch with nature. It is a job that cannot be hurried even when one works fast to fill many crates so that the fruits can be pressed as swiftly as possible after they have left the trees.
The longer we wait before pressing, the higher is the level of acid in the oil and the less chance of Extra Virgin olive oil. EU regulatory standards state that oil labelled Extra Virgin must contain 0.8 per cent or less acid. Anything over is simply Virgin oil and does not contain the same health-giving properties.
Ours usually comes in at about 0.6 per cent.
This year the trees are laden with olives and we are picking them while they are green or tournant. Tournant translates as ‘turning’ and means that they are in between green and black, purple-toned. For our variety of olive, this stage is ideal for harvesting.
Yesterday, sitting alone at the mill reading on my Kindle, while in front of me the machines washed, rolled and pressed noisily and farmers came and went, each nodding and smiling, enjoying the moment when another’s fruits spluttered from the tap transformed into oil, I reminded myself that this is an ancient and a shared tradition. A community activity. Not only here in France, but all around the Mediterranean at this late autumn time of year, families and businesses are occupied with this same activity: Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics. For each of the three monotheisms, this precious gift has been lauded in the sacred scriptures. The olive tree is a gift of life, a gift from the earth given to us all. None of us has been particularly chosen to receive it and we all need to work equally hard to obtain the tree’s gifts. It is bitter fruit when harvested and only later reveals its magnificence.
These musings mattered to me greatly yesterday. Yesterday was the 14th November. The day after the Friday 13th Atrocities in Paris.
France is in shock and mourning. This morning I drove my mother down to the Catholic church in the village. It was jam-packed. Its bell on the tower was ringing continuously while almost next door hundreds had gathered outside the Hôtel de Ville, the town hall, to pay their respects to those who have lost their lives, or are fighting for survival in Paris hospitals.
I feel myself a very small clog in a wheel of life that is turning and seems to be moving in directions that appal and frighten me. I have no answers, no wise words to offer. I write my books and hope to entertain my readers and I farm this small patch of land with my husband in an organic way because I believe that chemicals on the land and in our food poisons us, creates cancers and damages our environment. I speak out (loudly, I hope!) to give a voice to the plight of the honeybee and all other pollinators devastated and struggling for survival due to man’s use of neonicotinoid (neuro-active) pesticides and due to loss of habitat.
I believe there is a simpler, more beneficial way to live than poisoning our environment. This is my belief, my conviction, a chosen modus vivendi, but I would not kill anyone to impose it upon them or because they do not see the earth’s management my way.
And this is what saddens me all the way down to the pit of my stomach. How to create dialogue with those who refuse to listen, who believe that they must kill and revenge themselves against others whose way of life is different to their own? How to discuss with those who judge youngsters who attend a Friday night concert ‘pagans’? Pagans who must be massacred.
We are sitting on a knife’s edge and we need to keep our emotions under control, no knee-jerk reactions. It is rather like picking olives one at a time, not hurriedly, not squeezing the juice, the oil, out of them and destroying their goodness.
How do we deal with evil, pure evil, without hurting ourselves, without blackening our own humanity? Perhaps this is one of Life’s fundamental questions, riddles, and we are being presented it on a very large platter. I don’t have answers or solutions. All I can do is dig my patch of the universe with humility, trying to remain dignified and trying to avoid hate and bile…
Here is the international booklink if you wish to pre-order. Initially, it will be in hardback and e-book with the paperback coming out July 2016.
If you are attending The France Show during the last weekend of January, (29-31), I will be there giving talks and FINGERS CROSSED we will have some early printed copies of The Forgotten Summer available to buy signed by me, after each of my talks. Check with The France Show website to find out the time of my talks each day. http://www.thefranceshow.com/language-and-culture/The-Forgotten-Summer-the-new-novel-by-Carol-Drinkwater-386
I am at work on a new novel, but more on that next year….
If you are looking for a novella to read now, A Simple Act Of Kindness was published as an e-book on both sides of the Atlantic last month. Do please download and enjoy it.
I wish you peace. I wish peace to us all and the wisdom and strength to grow and not allow ourselves to shrivel with hatred. We are, each and everyone of us, very powerful beings and we need to use our power as a positive enriching source for others.
JE SUIS CHARLIE JE SUIS PARIS