Life in the Loire after lock-down. 18th May. Day 8 of déconfinement.

I have a lovely complexion apparently. At least that’s what my mother keeps telling me every time we talk on FaceTime. It’s a little bit embarrassing.

Frankly, I’ve not been wearing any make-up these past 2 months and my complexion is no better or worse than anyone else’s. Or maybe she’s comparing my complexion to that of her own mother in old age which she said was ‘as soft as down’. Huge alarm bells ring at this point. Do I have a fluffy menopausal complexion?

This has been worrying me (slightly) until we had a chat yesterday. Nigel came into vision for a quick hello at which point my Mum said that he was looking ‘very dapper in his smart top’. Very dapper (she laughs out loud). He was wearing his lock-down painting top that he used to run in. It’s 20 years old, covered with paint stains and is baggy at the wrists. Very dapper indeed. About as smart and dapper as my smooth flawless complexion.

Like many people, we’ve been making an effort to reduce plastics in our house. Buying more things ‘loose’, using less plastic wrap in the kitchen, switching to refillable containers for shower gel and using a ‘shampoo bar’.

The shower gel can also be used as a shampoo but I found the lack of mousse a bit disconcerting so moved swiftly on to the shampoo bar.

The bar has a lovely mousse and seems to do the job well. The only problem is, my hair looks a bit like a bird’s nest when it’s dried. This may be something to do with the fact that I’ve not had a haircut for 3 months and like everyone else, am looking rather shaggy at the edges anyway but – I’m in serious need of some conditioner.

And so my hair is tied up or twirled up and there it stays. I should count my lucky stars I guess. I don’t have any grey yet, it’s just that my highlights have practically disappeared and my natural colour has returned to what my lovely hairdresser describes as ‘dishwater blonde’. It’s not meant to be an insult. She tells me it’s a wonderful colour that highlights easily. It just needs those highlights.

I had a lovely walk this afternoon with my friend Kim. Being a relative newbie to this bit of the Loire my local knowledge is still quite limited but she has lots of interesting things to share. We made our way across the bridge and up past the oldest house in Amboise La Maison des Pages, built into the limestone hillside it was owned by Charles VII, then up past a rather spooky looking house with an amazing belvedere that has stunning views over the river Loire and then up again until we reached a spectacular viewpoint where you can see for miles around. A chance to catch our breath and identify the major landmarks including La Pagode de Chanteloup, an architectural folly built by the Duc de Choiseul, Prime Minister of Louis XV and exiled from Paris in 1770. It’s 44 metres high and was inspired by the Chinese pagoda in Kew Gardens, designed by William Chambers.

Then we wended our way back down, passing through grassy fields and pathways lined with wild orchids and long grass before meandering through the centre of Amboise itself, the main street below the Chateau d’Amboise still calm and quiet. A few passers by, our friends Yvonne and Steve passed by on their bikes. We stopped to say hello, keeping our distance.

And then we returned to Kim’s house and sat in her garden for a cold drink in the shade, her two cats curled up in the sunshine, her husband and son working from home. And for just a fleeting moment it felt as if life was normal again.

Dinner this evening was a simple affair. A free range chicken leg (much more tender than the last one thank goodness), rubbed with finely grated lemon rind and chilli flakes and roasted in the oven with baby fennel. Alongside I served a mixture of basmati rice, lentils and spices, a ready to cook mixture that I bought loose at the little épicerie in Vouvray Les Bocaux d’Alex. It was really tasty. A little Greek yoghurt with crunchy chilli sauce and some fresh chives to serve.

Roasted chicken leg with spiced rice and lentils

No wine tonight. An earlyish night with a book (still not managed to finish one single one since this wretched lock-down started).