We’re now a few days into the French Republican Calendar month of Pluviôse, which means rainy. It’s certainly proving to be that this year, although it did begin with a lovely, warm, dry, spring-like day that saw me out tackling some gardening jobs. Sadly it’s back to hunkering down indoors again.

Pluviôse is the fifth month of the FRC year. It’s the second month of the winter quarter of the year, following Nivôse (snowy) and preceding Ventôse (windy). These weather-centric names reflect just how strongly the elements affected life in days gone by, when there wasn’t central heating, proper water-proof or cold-proof clothing, or heated, enclosed means of transport and agricultural machinery. There was no escaping the weather in those days.

To emphasis how dodgy the weather is at this time of the year, the scantily-clad, buxom young lady who features in Louis Lafitte’s illustrations of the various months actually has a long-sleeved dress more or less on, and a scarf over her hair in her pose for Pluviôse.

As usual, every day of the month has its own name. There are three animal days (5th, 15th and 25th), respectively bull, cow and hare. A bit unimaginative to have two bovines in the same month? Frankly yes, and there’s more rather non-creative thinking to be found. On the 1st we have Lauréole (spurge-laurel), on the 6th we get Lauier-thym (laurustinius) and on the 16th Laurier (bay laurel). We also get avelinier (cobnut) on the 14th and noisetier (hazelnut) on the 27th. Those two are pretty much the same thing. You might be tempted to think it’s happening again with trainasse on the 24th and traineau on the 30th, but the former is knotweed while the latter is sleigh. (The other two agricultural implements for the month are coignée (hatchet) on the 10th and serpette (billhook) on the 20th.) There’s also moss and lichen just over a fortnight apart. One can only suppose that poet Philippe François Nazaire Fabre, aka Fabre d’Eglantine (1750-1794), on whom fell the job of naming each day, was having a bit of an off-one.

I celebrated moss day by having a go at a moss ball bonsai (or kokedama), and making a tiny mossil garden (moss plus fossil). There’s an awful lot of moss to be found on our land, but be assured I’m only taking a little from each location. I’m rather getting into moss so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more on the subject in the future.

Now I must go and fume quietly over the fact that our health minister suddenly banning the use of home-made fabric face masks, which up to now have been perfectly acceptable. I feel another blog coming on…