Friday, August 07, 2009

What have Thirteen Moons and a BBQ got to do with each other ?”

5.30 pm Thursday evening : Having just done the evening round of the animals, we’re now making the final preparations for a barbecue, with our guests arriving around 7. What a delightful image I evoke, friends gathered together, home-made sausages grilling over a charcoal fire, balmy Brittany summer weather. Except that it should read “barmy”, not balmy! It’s been raining solidly all day and even the skies have darkened but, as we have just reassured Edith and Olivier on the phone, fear not, when it comes to running a barbecue in the pouring rain, the English are expert. And so it is, with a certain Dunkirk spirit, we soldier on trying not to let our spirits get dampened even though I’m currently soaked to the skin.

One of the very reasons that we chose to move to Brittany was the climate. The south of France can get too hot to do anything other than read a paperback next to a swimming pool during the summer and we wanted somewhere that had a pleasant climate along with enough rain, evenly distributed throughout the year, to grow something more than just grape vines. The average rainfall here in August is apparently 39 mm, temperatures agreeably reaching 22ºC, and no less than 170 hours of sunshine. But not this year.

The word on the street is that it’s got something to do with 2009 having thirteen moons and as soon as we get back to a year of twelve moons, all will be well again.

I’ve been asking neighbours and digging around on the Internet to try to get to the bottom on this. Our neighbour Christiane’s sister Cécile had heard of the phenomenon but when pressed as to whether it was thirteen full moons, or thirteen new moons, she didn’t know. In fact there will, more often than not, be an extra moon, either full or new, as the lunar year is around 11 days less than a solar year (the year we base our 12 month calendar on). Unsurprisingly French weather scientists tend not to hold anything by this but, just in case the weather doesn’t behave according to the rule, I found a variation with one old guy reckoning that in a year with thirteen moons, only the months commencing with “A” will be beautiful.” Well, there may be thirteen full moons this year but this month begins with an “A” … and it’s till tipping down outside”.

Post barbecue update : We had 18 mm of rain yesterday, taking our monthly total so far to 45 mm in only the first 6 days of August; the monthly average is only 39. We also had a superb barbecue. With uncanny timing, the weather broke five minutes before the first guests turned up: the rain stopped and it brightened up. With the barbecue and our washing-machine drum brazier, we felt warm, our home made rosemary and sun-dried tomato pork sausages were delicious, the kids toasted marshmallows and the grownups desserted on fresh strawberries and blackberries, marinated in Cointreau and sugar. We finished up musically with Gabrielle and her violin, Pascal on an African wooden box with snares inside that serves both as seat and percussion instrument and Anne-Cécile flexing her accordion.

The thirteen moons theory? I think it’s about as useful as the British proverb of St Swithun’s Day, which says that if it rains on Saint Swithun's day (15th) July, then it will rain for the next 40 days (or stay dry if dry). And have a heart for our local farmers who are waiting for their turn on the combine harvester to bring in the wheat harvest and hoping for a couple of sunny days so the grain is dry.