Sitting here I can see through my loft window now at late dusk the August full moon rising over the hill, and the sky washed those rather indescribable shades of translucent harebell and mallow. The little smoke of bats has begun to drift past the window.
Before I abandoned the attempt, though, and before the urge to turn my pen to matters poetic had kicked in irresistibly, I'd made some notes; which as a way back in to my blogging self I copy for you here.
The last few miles are alongside the river. Embedded in the tall cliffs bordering the Lot are buildings dating from the Hundred Years War between England and France that straddled (my history's a little shaky) the C14th. We cross a small bridge and turn right, start winding uphill.
Dusk and we pull up on the tiniest of narrow slopes opposite a tumbling and many-pieced roof, all eight centuries of it (I'm excited to realise it would have been built not long after the period I write about in Imago, after the persecution of the Cathars and the fall of Montsegur. I'm also excited, later, to find indoors a book on the Cathars I haven't yet read).
The pan-tiles are old deep red terracotta, now dulled and darkened by age and dusk, and skirted with the last of the day's whirring house martins with a couple of dragonflies buzzing among them like officious guards (if that's not tautology). As we emerge the martins are gradually replaced by bats, and an owl begins to hoot in the thick oak and chestnut woodland – and listen, the green woodpecker's still yaffling off in the distance...
Tiny wooden gate. Step through onto the thick-stemmed-wisteria-topped oak-beamed terrace and oh the view of the wide slow river glinting below winding between the limestone gorges and lean over the terrace to catch a dusky glimpse of the lush river valley and its borders of woodland. A green pooling of daylight seems to linger below. This land is described as a 'pays de lumiere', and even at dusk everything seems to glow.
I'm here with my daughter and two much-loved friends who have treated us both to a holiday. This area is the national park of the Causses du Quercy in the Lot ('quercy' coming from the Latin quercus, meaning oak; it's very lush, very green and wooded – mostly oak and chestnut, with the fertile river borders thick with sunflowers, maize, tobacco and fruit and nut trees, and a huge number of colourful wildflower meadows; and right now very hot).
The Lot is a treasure: further south, rural, relatively undiscovered, almost completely unspoilt and in my view more beautiful than its better-known neighbour the Dordogne. Almost all the little houses – quirky, varied and tumbling over each other in a way that reminds me of the little fishing villages in my native Cornwall – in this small hilltop village are mediaeval, and even the few new ones are built of the local golden limestone topped with red tiles.
The family names here, often Occitan rather than French, have been associated with this land for centuries. Who knows how many of the inhabitants are descended from the people who painted the underground rock walls in this region with such sophistication so many millennia ago? Imagine the miles and miles of caves in the gorges; picture the prehistoric art created 25,000 years ago in the cavernous bellies of these hills: flickering silhouettes of horses, bison, mammoths, antelope, bear and auroch drawn in assured sweeps of red and yellow ochre, manganese and charcoal two miles below the surface. Picture the red ochre and charcoal 'negative' handprints, clear as your own. See the footprints of those two adolescent boys preserved in mud...