Loire a Velo, composed in Beaugency

We've been cycling for over two weeks in the Loire Valley along the banks of its great river and, as with the Brest a Nantes canal, we have come to know its own particular character and charms; its idiosyncracies. The Loire Valley is fertile, verdant and lush. I recall as I cycle, Miss Reilly teaching us in geography class about its fertility , the details of which I've forgotten , but witnessing it now first hand is an education in itself.

The Loire is vineyard country – Saumur and Sancerre are on its banks. It's also Chateaux country. We visited the truly beautiful chateau at Chambourg yesterday, which is majestic and vast. We enjoyed a picnic in its grounds and we imagined being French Royalty of old for just an hour or so.

But, for me, as a Market Gardener's daughter, most notably the Loire is an agricultural and horticulural paradise. We've passed by countless fields of sunflowers – heads bent with the weight of their heavy load as though whispering sweet nothings to one another. There are lots and lots of allotments beautifully kept yielding plump vegetables. I've also seen lots of market gardens carefully cultivated, and, usually watched over by vigilant scarecrows. As I've seen the gardeners tending and toiling, heads bent and shoulders stooped , like the sunflowers in the neighbouring fields, my thoughts have turned to my own father and his Market Garden. As a child, I suppose, you don't appreciate all of the work which has to happen to keep you fed and watered and, well, to enjoy the life your parents provide. But, even unknownst to yourself, life legacies are bequeathed from your upbringing. A love of plants and gardening is one from my own particular childhood. And it has been carried forth genetically. Luca loves the outdoors and all of the plants and crops it yields. One of his favourite occupations at home is to water (to death!) the plants on his grandparents balcony and he has asked me, more than once, if he can go to his grandma's garden since we've left Dublin.

If you'd have met him, Dad, I think that you'd have loved your fourteenth grandchild. You'd have enjoyed listening to him tell you about, at least, this tranche of our cycling trip. How he knows that you can't eat corn, he sees growing on the stalk , until it's yellow, to identify sunflowers and poppies and to hear how he can recognise vines and can tell you what their grapes produce.

I'd love to be able tell you how I hear him and his Dada talk about all of the different species of birds that glide overhead as we cycle; buzzards, kestrels, starlings, swallows and swifts. I'd love to tell you how he knows that caterpillars turn into coccoons and then “beaut-ful” butterflies (The Hungry Caterpillar is the only child's book we have with us). Which in turn, reminds me of how you used to keep crysalises you found in “the gardens” in matchboxes for me. I hadn't thought of that in years and years. You see cycling affords one time for reflection. Especially after the first 20km of the day when you enter “the Zone” and every revolution beomes robotic.

I am only left to imagine how you and him woud have been together. And, so left, I see you both walking around the gardens with Luca “helping” you. I imagine you silently and solemnly picking the crysanthamums whilst he incessantly talks and asks you questions alongside. Then I picture you later that day, relieved of your charge, post-dinner and post radio news, in your kitchen chair, about to nod off and then, across those old blue eyes (think I've seen them somewhere since!) a glint of satisfaction that the apple hadn't fallen far from the bough afterall......


At August 22, 2010 at 8:35 AM anna d'arcy said...

Oh Linda that is beautiful. Your Dad would be so proud of you xox

At August 30, 2010 at 11:23 AM Anonymous said...

Beautifully written Linda! Brought a tear or two to my eyes... Aine


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