Sunday, 22 May 2011

More lavender...bygone days


In the lavender fields…

  Men with pitchforks were throwing the stalks and flowers up like hay. Another stood on top of the shaggy load, shouting. Then, when it seemed not another petal could possibly cling on, and the mauve tassles were dripping in every direction, the order was given to sway off to the corner where the alembic had been pulled in by a donkey.


More lavender, and a glimpse further into the past. In the crossroads village of Coustellet, best known for its Sunday morning market, stands the Musée de la Lavande, the lavender museum, where these evocative old photographs from the 1920s and 30s hang on the walls.


It was back-breaking work, on an arid landscape and under an unforgiving sun at harvest time at the end of July. There were no mechanical aids for the cutting and gathering of the stems, just a hand scythe and a cloth bag worn over the shoulder. The women would have worn clothes like this:


   I was given a bag, a small sickle and a starting place. Although he asked my name and nodded, he did not introduce himself. For several days afterwards, until I got to know some of the other girls and exchange information, he would remain simply the man in the waistcoat.
  ‘Watch out for the bees, and the vipers,’ he said.
  ‘Vipers?’
  ‘They hide under the flowers.’
   I put on my apron and pulled my cotton scarf up over my head. My eyes were already hurting from the relentless sun.
   Nervously, I began. It was tiring work but I was keen to prove myself. The bag grew heavier and bumped against my legs. The scent was heavenly, all around in heavy fumes, so intense that after a while it seemed to pulse.
                                                         from The Lantern



Musée de la Lavande: Route de Gordes (D2), 84220 Coustellet
For their website click here.

17 comments:

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Deborah:
Old photographs, such as you show here, are always fascinating for the glimpses which they provide into a way of life which, for the most part, has gone for ever. But the extract from 'The Lantern' which you include adds yet a further dimension which, combined with the narrator's voice in the first person, gives to the whole an immediacy which makes it very, very real and of the present.

We remember now the fields of lavender as they were on the hills above Nice many, many years ago.

Dafeenah said...

Simply gorgeous. Olden times have a special place in my heart.

Joanne said...

The text from "The Lantern" has a wonderful way of bringing the photo of the workers to life. It's always fascinating to "see" slices of living from bygone eras.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

I have just pre-ordered my copy due to arrive in August... I hope that I can wait that long! Your photos of the lavender fields remind me of a trip to Provence with my daughter Holly. She wanted to run among the plants and be photographed with the deep shade of fragrant flowers... Well, I do not think that she had counted on the bees which were in abundance nor did she know anything about "vipors" thankfully... Needless to say, we took some photos with her well in front of the bee-busy field of lavender!

Love this post, mon amie!
Genie

Elizabeth Young said...

Beautiful. I not only read your post's Deborah, I smell their heavenly perfume!

Jyoti Mishra said...

old snaps bewitch you, it always gives a nice feeling.

Richard said...

Le pays des lavandes est un endroit exceptionnel qui ne peut être décrit à la perfection si on n'y a pas séjourné quelques temps. C'est absolument à connaître une fois dans sa vie.
Merci Deborah!

Charley Appenzellar said...

Beautiful images and text. I felt as though I had been transported back in time. What a wonderful little window into another world.

Just finished reading Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, can't thank you enough for the recommendation. I enjoy her writing style and the plot is very much right up my alley.

Best,
Charley

...louciao... said...

Fascinating to read your account of working the lavender fields of bygone days; even though just a snippet, it brought the experience to life for me. I dream to one day see the lavender fields for myself, and there are few things I dream of doing. I'm not sure I could handle the relentless July sun, though...nor the high season costs of travel. But I can dream...

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

That must have been really difficult work. I'm glad I was born in this time period. :)

BookGeek said...

Stopping by after not getting on for a bit! That last sentence about the scent of the lavender was beautiful.

Olga said...

I love anything to do with lavender. In France, there is a rich history of lavender use. As for Canada, one can only enjoy a lavender field next to Montreal. Also, one can buy some lavender honey imported from France. Thank you for the wonderful post.

Elizabeth Young said...

Hi Deborah, there is an 'Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award' for you over at my blog!

monicastangledweb.com said...

What must it be like to be surrounded by such beauty! Ah, bliss. I look at your pictures and find myself at peace. A great way to end the day! :)

Sara Louise said...

I drive through Coustellet quite often, I'll have to stop by that museum sometime this summer

Cathy K said...

If you don't stop writing such sensual pieces, you're going to have a queue, as far as the eye can see, of folks clamoring at your garden gate!

Woody Creek Lavender Farm said...

I'm so glad I found your blog! It is just lovely. I am especially loving this post on lavender. Thank you!

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