Our winter hardly arrived till almost the middle of January, so we cannot really complain! When it did come, it was actually quite cold and windy, and I could, for a few days, see the snow creeping down the Albères. Last Thursday was, (so far), the climax with a biting wind straight off the snowbound Pyrenees, or so it felt. I was told (and have not checked) that at Port Bou and Cap Béar, the windspeed reached 173 km per hour, which even with my maths, is over 100 mph. It was certainly violently gusty, and although it eased a little in the later afternoon when I decided I would, after all, go to choir in Sorede, the lorries on the motorway were still static, lined up as far as the eye could see - apart, that is from those who actually wanted to join the motorway at Le Boulou and were slowly going around all the roundabouts, wondering what to do!
The strange thing about the cold weather was that it coincided with some of the signs of the end of winter, if not actually the coming of spring. The very first mimosa has been in bloom for a week or two, as have the quinces; I love that bright, deep, almost petrol colour. Hazel catkins were in full bloom, too, almost butter-yellow beside one of the paths I walk. And now that we have had a few warmer days, things seem to have started moving quite quickly in the garden; today I found a few crocuses in bloom, I can see hyacinths emerging, and one white Lenten Rose has a good, visible bud, almost open.
As far as the birds are concerned, it has been fairly quiet; before the cold snap, I was hearing wryneck while I was out walking, but since the colder weather came, they seem to have been silent - maybe they have gone further south for a while. I have had the usual tits, chaffinches and robins around the feeder, and from the famous vantage point of the kitchen sink, I recently watched a black-capped warbler moving around the hedge. Try as I would I could not see whether it had a red eye, but it certainly looked very jaunty for a black-cap, and I am tempted to believe it was a Sardinian.
Now I am returning to Britain for three weeks, and I have given myself an unusual, small task; I want to see if I can find in the UK a more grammatical and philosophical piece of graffiti than one which adorns the side of an old roadman's hut beside a quiet, very rural byway close to home. It reads: " De quoi seront faits nos rèves quand on aura tout? If you find one to equal or beat that, please send it in!