After the Vent d'Autan
The sun has just come out after a slow misty start to Sunday. Today is the 19th of February. The past few days have been beautifully warm and sunny and the days are getting longer: it is light in the evening now until past seven o’clock. There is a tangible optimism of spirit now that our more sombre enclosed winter world is opening out again to a summer existence.
The beginning of the week did not seem so promising as we were buffeted for three days by the Vent d’Autan – a south-easterly wind born in the Mediterranean Sea which funnels between the Massif Central mountains to the north-east and the Pyrenees to the south-west, affecting a large area of the Aquitaine Basin between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Although the wind can strike at any time due to certain atmospheric conditions, it is more prevalent around the Spring and Autumn equinox.
We were lucky here at Château Plombis not to suffer more damage other than twigs, small branches and debris on the lawns. Some in the area suffered fallen trees, power cuts and damage to buildings in winds of up to 120km per hour. A few planes gave up trying to land in the gusts at Toulouse airport and were redirected to Montpellier or Bordeaux.
It is said that the Vent d’Autan can make people mad, and is known by some locals as “Le Vent des Fous”. It is blamed for headaches, migraines, irritability, insomnia, and even heart attacks. A drop in atmospheric pressure caused by the Vent d’Autan may also explain the rise in the number of births during this meteorological phenomenon (if you were wondering, apparently the electrons in amniotic fluid mobilise due to the lower pressure, causing the waters to break and labour to start).
After three or four days of exceedingly blustery conditions the wind finally blew itself out leaving the Quercy landscape battered but awakened. From afar fields and woods don’t seem to have ostensibly changed their apparel, but look closely – under leaves on a woodland track, nestling minutely against weathered stone walls – and the tiniest most delicate signs of Spring have most definitely appeared within this last week, their electrons mobilised perhaps by the drop in atmospheric pressure brought by Le Vent d’Autan.