Little more I can do now: the alarm is set for 3 am tomorrow morning; I have cereal bars and fruit juice and Kendal Mint Cake and books on the Kindle; I have packed everything I can, unpacked most of it at least once because I still needed it and packed it again, written extensive notes to myself about things I have done perfectly easily before or could very easily have kept in even my increasingly sieve-like head anyway, emptied everything that needs emptying and charged everything that needs charging, written my will...
Molly has extra meat for tomorrow's dinner and Tom has been given special dispensation to have a Mars bar for breakfast on the way back from the station at 5 am.
On the way back from further last minute provisioning (done at least in part to give Mol a ride in the car to distract her from rolling furiously and indignantly on the carpet having had her ears cleaned, another job that couldn't possibly wait till I got back, after all, that moment, just 36 hours after my departure, will be a world away), I decided to do something I have been meaning to do every spring for the last seven years, that is, photograph the magnolia tree in flower on the ramparts of Moncontour.
This isn't such a difficult thing to do, but difficult enough, since a clear view to it can only be obtained from a point on a fairly narrow winding road up the hill away from the town where stopping the car is very dangerous - not that this prevents smitten tourists, sometimes in camping cars, from doing so anyway. Since the only place you can safely stop and park is several hundred meters further back up the hill, and there's no easy turning, I hardly ever think to do so in time, at least not when I have the camera with me. Anyone who knows a magnolia tree knows that their moment of early spring glory is a brief one, and year after year I've failed to get around to taking the photos. This time, though, I thought to do so in advance,
And since to look at things in bloom,
Fifty Springs is little room...
Sadly, it was not a very bright spring day and rather too late in the morning, so the contrast of lights and shadows which show the picturesquely irregular shapes and planes of the ancient town's walls and roofs to best advantage, and which seem to make the magnolia stand out all grand and emblazoned and Tree-of-Gondor-like, was absent, but you can't have everything. And perhaps that perception of the tree is enhanced by the way it rather flashes upon the eye, surprising every time.
In the long view it's scarcely noticeable, in fact.
The yellow specks on the walls below it are primroses.
The one above caught the great flocks of jackdaws and pigeons which swirl around the old bell tower, built by the Spanish in the Wars of Religion in the 16th century. These birds are a perpetual headache in terms of their destructiveness, since all they want to do is roost and poo all over said tower, which was lately restored at great expense of time and money by a special firm of scaffolders and builders from Provence who specialise in such lofty edifices, but they are very much a part of the atmosphere of the place.
Unlike Houseman's narrator, I've had my fifty springs, rather than anticipating them. It seems important to try to get round to at a few of the things one hasn't got round to yet, at least some of the smaller ones even if the bigger ones remain out of reach, and even if they don't quite stand out as brightly in reality as they are in the mind. As a dear friend said, now's the time.