The suspense was killing me. I put on my shoes and walked up to the garage which had become the centre of operations. My husband, his brother and parents stood in a silent semi-circle in the gloom. Even the dogs looked on with the quiet demeanour of mourners around a coffin. The object of their attention had its bonnet up. Various bits of metal had been spewed on the ground near the wheels. “Well?” I asked, without much hope “what’s the verdict?”
“Nothing that can’t easily be fixed” replied my father-in-law. “You can go and get your bags packed”. My husband looked at me and grinned, relieved that the symptoms weren’t terminal; the fear about the cost and time that would have been needed to change the gear box draining from him. He had also faced the practical worry, that this was the only tractor small enough to fit into the narrow rows of the orchard. The fact that the trees needed urgent treatment against disease hadn’t been lost on him.
I had my own selfish reasons for hoping that the tractor would make a swift recovery. We had planned a weekend away en amoureux. A much needed 36 hour break from a life that had begun as a calm stroll, but seemed to have transformed into a frenetic dash through time. The couple of days in Provence had been meticulously planned and I had been looking forward to spending more than five minutes together, in an ambience that didn’t include sheep, apple trees, fields or kids.
From the beginning however, I had started to wonder if we were really destined to go. When I had tried to book accommodation, everywhere had been full. Instead of spending the weekend, as I had imagined, in a cosy B&B surrounded by olive trees and lavender in one of the prettiest part of Provence, we would be staying in the only place that had a bed free; an expensive fleapit in downtown Cavaillon.
My husband, who had been so enchanted by the idea of a weekend away, a couple of months ago, was now stressing about haymaking, which had started a week earlier than usual. He had been calculating for days about when he would cut and bale. My own good humour had been sabotaged at 5 pm by a difficult client, so when I heard a couple of hours later that the tractor had suffered an untimely demise, I didn’t feel particularly surprised.
The next morning though, I threw the bag into the boot with gusto, the tractor was fixed and we were finally on our way. As we backed the car out, I glanced upwards. The sky which had been a brilliant blue, had turned a threatening slate grey and the wind had started to pick up; whipping the branches of the willow tree next to the garage into a frenzy. I resigned myself to rain, and by the time we reached the bottom of the lane the first drops splashed onto the windscreen with a dull thud.