WORKING at the end of my table, looking towards the shuttered glass doors, I could see the lightning as it flashed in the narrow headband. The kitchen/dining room heart of the house is the only room where the reworked, replaced shutters allow light to penetrate.
Plus, there are two barred windows, left unshuttered. One looks out into the inner courtyard, through the trees and north.
From the side of my eye the brilliant white strikes played out a merry dance and I prayed the flickering lights would not finally give up. The thunder pulsed its menace and even the dog, who usually ignores such sounds but howls at the rumble of my stomach, joined in the tumult, tail under his body, fear in his rigid stance.
I will never get used to the sudden, violent storms that arise here.
I used to accept that August was indeed a wicked month and lived with the almost tropical visitations. But, in the last couple of years, there is no longer a rhyme, reason or pattern to their arrival.
These are the times when I realise I live in a foreign country and feel, despite the years here, out of my depth; edgy, nervous, vulnerable in my field.
And yet I look online and see Scotland covered in snow one week and taps aff the next. So I am not alone in this oddness.
I no longer get a frisson of foreignness on driving around. As I was once in Glasgow and London, I’m on autopilot, casually navigating the “rond-points” that initially filled me with dithering fear. I speak French, usually without thinking what I’m saying, as I rarely need to mentally translate any more. It just is.
If lizards drop into my room when I don’t give warning that I’m opening the window where they’ve been slumbering, I no longer sit upright all night fearing they will crawl down my open mouth as I sleep. They will slip out through the tiny cracks and blown stone of my walls or tuck themselves into corners to feast on the spiders I can now deal with too.
The odd, very rare, snake reminds me I live “elsewhere”, as do the fig, sweet chestnut and almond trees outside my walls.
All in all, I’ve enjoyed both the strangeness and the increasing familiarity of my life.
But this week the UK officially ceded from the European Union and all I’ve held dear in my life: my many lives in different countries.
Outside of my old farmhouse, though, nothing moved, nothing changed, and life continues as it has for generations in La France Profonde. Although, of course, it changes constantly in flickering increments.
We are more concerned about our own coming elections, and a big part of me is grateful that Brexit has made renouncing Europe a grotesque idea.
When the referendum went for it, as I’ve written here, there was a major tilt in my world and a nauseous, truly tear-stained recognition on many levels that my European life was no more.
I couldn’t understand how anyone with half a brain could vote to leave the European Union. I still can’t and have given up trying to understand the dull, solid thoughts of the Brexiteers among the immigrants here.
Yes, immigrants, not expats; economic immigrants who have voted against their rights in their pastiches of Cotswolds cottages in the Gers.
At a drinks do recently, an upright former military man almost shouted down my arguments with: “We will be great again. We’ve been there before and we won.”
He meant the Second World War. I pointed out to this staunch son of Albion that the UK could be lost. Scotland could go. (For various reasons I didn’t go down the united Irish line.)
“Let them go, bloody Scots,” he said. “Who needs them? Troublesome shower.”
Because I actually like this man I changed the subject without going for the jugular of his reasoning.
I came away that night, saddened and shocked. It seems many but by no means all UK immigrants who come here come for “the culture, the food, the lifestyle, the sun”. And haven’t a clue what that means.
There are, thankfully, many others who came here because of a belief in the ethos of a union of peoples who would never again fight each other in wars or trade. The ones who, like me, are desperately appalled at where we’re all heading.
Outside there are no more thunderstorms, for the moment.
All the “foreign” trees are blooming. The odd tractor goes up and back down spreading the banned manure.
But everything has changed. For ever.
And I will watch all the news programmes, both British and French, and feel a little less part of either.
I will sit at my table in La France Profonde and be neither fish nor fowl.
And I will get angrier and angrier at the cynical games played by certain politicians who have marooned me here.
Then I will sign off my Irish passport.