A v-shaped formation of birds headed south across the Bay of Biscay. The Basque coast was visible at sea level, so a bird’s eye view would have offered a panorama of miles of the interior. Perhaps they were drawing a collective sigh of relief at having safely crossed the sea. Even if their destination was Africa, there would be little more open water to cross.
The migratory habit seems wise, why sit through months of rain and cold, punctuated by even colder days of snow and ice, when there is a chance to escape the winter in North-Western Europe?
Lingering in south-west France as September drew to a close and the undeniably autumn month of October began, it is noticeable that it is not just the birds which seem on a southward trajectory.
The resort of Vieux Boucau overflows with people during the hot days of August. It offers visitors 1,000 free parking spaces, added to which are the thousands of people resident in the campsites and apartments that fill and surround the once quiet fishing village. It is quiet now; wandering along the shore it is hard to imagine the scene just a few weeks ago.
The place is almost empty, only almost. A camper van parking area where, after 30th September, one can have parking, access to drainage, and a connection point for electricity for €6 a night, is well filled with vans. The vans seem mostly filled by couples, thinning or greying hair marking their age. The temperature at midday has passed twenty degrees and those coming from a small island off the north-western coast of Europe would think it a fine summer’s day.
The market in Vieux Boucau is in full swing; it is in the open air and people are still dressed for summer temperatures. The number of customers is thin compared to the high season, but there must be enough business to bring the stall holders along.
An Englishman living in the area says that the good weather can hold on until the end of October, and then it turns wet and windy. Where do the vans go then? Across to the Mediterranean and southward?
It seems an attractive option, a year filled with seven or eight months of summer; the chance to move to find the weather; to walk or cycle in the sunshine each morning; to shop at markets; to have endless hours to read books; to sit with a mug of tea and watch the day without ever feeling a need to be anywhere at anytime.
The prospect of such a retirement seems immensely inviting. A pity that the collapse of our pension fund means such a prospect is a long way off.