It was the start of November and Perpignan, my temporary hometown in the South of France, was still balmy and warm. Women, trying to copy the latest fashions from Paris, sweltered in their chic coats and chunky scarves – only the die-hard fashionistas kept them on for more than five minutes. We had a sneaking suspicion that the heating in our charming, if somewhat ramshackle, house might not be entirely functioning, but that didn’t matter. It was still summer weather, as far as we were concerned.
My mum phoned that evening. “So, just checking,” she said, “Rory and I don’t need to pack many warm clothes, do we?”
“No, none!” I replied breezily. “A light jumper and jacket will be fine.”
The following day, there seemed to be a bit of a chill to the air, and by the time my dear, trusting family members arrived that evening, it was positively arctic. The streets were unusually empty as I hurried to meet them – everyone had retreated inside, windows glowing warmly. It seemed that my Mum and brother had brought the British weather to the South of France.
As I led our chilly little troupe into the hotel, the owner greeted me warmly. “The weather’s changed! It’s the first time we’ve had the heating on all year!” He said cheerily.
Feeling the glowering looks from my Mum and brother, I left them to get settled in, full of hope that the weather would warm up again the next day.
But it was not to be. The following morning, my housemates and I tried to get the radiators to work, but all we got were some ominous clunking sounds. There was no time to worry about it though; I had sightseeing duties with the family. We set out bravely – they were layered up in every item of clothing they had brought with them – and warmed up a little on the train to Collioure. We emerged to a stiff sea breeze blowing into the pretty harbour and huddled close to one another for warmth.
After we’d walked around for a few minutes, we decided to hop on board the little tourist train in the hope that it might be warmer. However, the carriages were mostly open to the elements and as we climbed the mountainside, we hunkered down behind the glass, my Mum and I clutching Rory for warmth – he seemed to be a little radiator.
At the summit, we gamely got out and even took photos of the view out across the bay, fighting with whistling winds and numb fingers. We laughed about the weather with some fellow frozen tourists, then piled back onto the tiny train to chug our way back down to the harbour. We alighted feeling a little like blocks of ice and repaired immediately to the nearest cafe and ordered three hot chocolates. The cafe was quiet, with just a couple of locals watching horseracing on the small, fuzzy TV screen in the corner. The ruddy-faced waiter brought the hot chocolates, looking at us like we were a bit mad.
Feeling a bit more alive after that, we returned to Perpignan, but decided to give up on the sightseeing for the rest of the day. Instead, we bought a small heater, heated up some soup and huddled under my duvet together, watching Homeward Bound. It wasn’t the most cultured afternoon, but we were together, we were happy and – we were warm.