Whilst I have been enjoying fabulous weather down here in SW France over these past few days it is the storms that seem to blow up from the back of the mountains that engage my interest. So this offering is a brief (and probably a bit florid) account of one particular storm that caught me and a couple of equine friends unawares.
It begins with the faint growl of thunder rolling out from the mountain. In the field, two horses – a chestnut and the black and white spotted Appaloosa – stand together, nose to tail, ears flicking a wild semaphore. Deep hollows above their soft eyes tell of age and wisdom. They know what is to come.
As the first heavy splats of rain belabour parched grass, the heat of the day swells and suffocates the scent of the meadows and the song of the birds. Banks of pewter cloud conquer the last lingering patches of blue sky.
The menace of thunder draws nearer, the growl gives way to staccato cracks that echo around the valley. Presently its brother-in-arms, white lightning, joins the fray slashing the sky to leave cruel jagged scars.
Rain follows washing away all traces of the past sun-filled hours. The horses bend their heads in submission to the cold, wet, slapping force and occasionally stamp a hoof as though to take a firmer hold of the earth. Their coats darken as they soak up the punishment; ears droop and flatten; the semaphore ceases.
Yet as quickly as it arose, the mountain’s anger dies away to a sullen muttering. In the field the two animals raise their heads. The chestnut gives a shuddering shake and thousands of sparkling raindrops fly into the air to land in the freshly greened grass. Appaloosa moves stiffly from his spot, tail swishing. Suddenly he breaks into an arthritic trot, tossing his head and sniffing the sharp cooled air. The rain stutters and spatters to a stop as the clouds roll away down the valley to eclipse another’s sun.