A low morning light seeps in through the windows. Nobody moves, upstairs or down. Getting up means committing to starting a fire in the wood-burning stove.
Trips to the bathroom are delayed for agonizing minutes. The lingering night air in the bedroom drives the occupants further under the goose-down duvet.
The plumbing wins out. There’s a small jump when feet hit the icy floor. Then it’s a race to the bathroom before the warmth of the duvet fades.
The sitting room and kitchen warm up comfortably after the logs have been coaxed into lighting. The electric kettle is put on to boil and soon there’s hot coffee in the French press. Day has officially begun in this farmhouse in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.
The day started earlier for the Gascon across the highway. The toothless farmer who speaks a waning dialect from ancient Gascony has made a few trips on his tractor between the silage piled underneath a tarp and the field where he spreads the feed. His companion, a black and white collie mix, follows his master wherever he goes.
Breakfast chez nous is a traditional serving of French bread, butter and jam. Sometimes there’s a bit of salami or cheese. Oatmeal and eggs are available, too.
The day’s activities also appear on the menu. The doors to the workshop have been primed. They’re ready for painting and need two coats of gray to match the house’s shutters. There’s wood to be chopped because the fireplace always needs feeding in winter. It must wait.
Today is market day in Trie-sur-Baïse. It’s the day when the British emigrants congregate to buy bread, exchange gossip and take lunch at Café Le Sport, their unofficial gathering place.
Jean-Paul greets everyone with a wide smile. Du café? Déjeuner? No problem. He hustles to the kitchen and returns to the table with a couple of 24-ounce glasses of Stella Artois and a cup of American-style coffee. Jean-Paul reviews the plat du jour. There’s a bifsteak or a stew with beef and noodles. For a starter, there’s charcuterie or a salad. Half a dozen choices are available for dessert including a chocolate tart or one made with apples. Another coffee wraps up the delicious meal.
There are still a few hours of daylight left. The laundry is brought inside the house from the clothesline strung between the pole barn and the vacant pig shed. A load of wood is carted to the front door and stands ready for burning. The workshop doors are finished, and the black hardware will be installed tomorrow. The electrician inspects the electrical box and plans to return the next week to run heavier wire to the new bathroom.
There are many jobs left in the renovation of the 600-year-old farmhouse. They can wait. The sun has sunk below the valley’s rim and it’s time to think about an apéritif before dinner.
Presently the Lezovi are house sitting in the Haute-Pyrénées department of France, north of the snow-capped border with Spain.