Leaf raking adventures

It may have been the small second whisky last night while sitting up late reading a Philip Kerr crime novel in bed.

Or the deep, deep sleep that can only come from inside the very thick walls of a stone farmhouse on an isolated mountain top in rural France.

But when the alarm went off early this morning I was having such vivid dreams that I had that moment of not knowing where I was, then who I was, and then the relief of knowing I was safe.

Moscow Dreams can do that.

Not so much nightmares as vivid dramas behind my eyelids. Dreams of such an extraordinary time where life was layered with drama, danger, adventure and general eddying, swirling out-of-control living that six years was more than enough for any one lifetime.

This morning I was transported back 25 years to a bread queue in Dushanbe in Tajikistan where just the day before someone had been so fed up with the waiting that they pulled out a gun and opened fire and shot the baker.

A riot ensued.

This was just after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Tajik economy had collapsed overnight.

My editor back in Moscow had instructed me to interview the survivors. I was heading that way anyway to write a fluff piece about the ‘Switzerland of Central Asia’ and what constitutes a decent rice plov.

I know. The food and travel writer being asked to do proper war reporting. How absurd was that?

Just because I travelled every week around the collapsing Empire hunting out quirky stories to entertain the readers back in the capital didn’t mean I had the journo instinct to actually get caught up in a ‘proper’ story and do a decent job of finding out.

I did frivolous. Whimsy. ┬áProper reporters found out what President Yeltsin’s plans were when he declared Civil War and bombed his own parliament.

I wrote about the fact his favourite food were fried potatoes.

My dreams obviously caught me out.

Living a life where so much drama and violence became a fact of life never lets you go. Even from the safe distance of a quarter of a century of gentle happy Western existence.

Some days, like today, this life on a farm in the mountains of France feel like I’m on a different planet.

A safe wonderful distant world where I get to tell you about my clever solution for leaf raking, rather than go on about my fears for life after Brexit, or the demonstrations of ‘gilets jaunes‘ protestors across France.

Back to frivolous.

Back to leaves.

There’s a pattern there which I don’t choose to explore in any more detail than my inability to report a riot in Tajikistan.

There is a fire to light (this office is freezing in the morning) coffee to make, news to hear, the day to create. A blog about leaves to write.

The traces of the nightmare will recede and I get to tell you that when you have a forest of trees at your disposal you can cut down two and make an ace little barrier around each tree and rake all the leaves in neat tidy piles.

And off cuts of wood make a perfect foil to deter the hedgehogs and badgers from messing up the display.

There. Blog done.

View from inside the window because it’s too cold this early to go out. No bomber planes in the sky. Those are lens flare from the living room lights.

Real life. Gentle, peaceful real rural French life.