As Francis Bacon once said, "gardening is the purest form of human pleasures." Spring is in full swing here in southern France, with all the beauty, colour and sharp weather contrasts that we experience in New Zealand during spring. Driving along narrow lanes is a sensation of greens, from the palest new leaves to the dark of the regenerating woodlands; deer bound from thickets across the road; the French villagers are bent over tending the new flowers that are sprouting from the edges; red poppies, pink lilac, deep purple irises throw bright spots of colour onto nature's palette. We are so privileged to be here in the French countryside at this time, spending happy days with our friends Tina and David in their farmhouse in the tiny village of Dampierre sur Boutonne. And, Tina being as much of an obsessive gardener as I am, we have spent some time between the spring showers, puddling in the garden. Tina's garden is an emerging riot of colour - roses clambering up the old stone walls, irises of various colours edging the drive, hollyhocks pushing their way through with the promise of tall slender flowers to come. We are watched carefully by Madame le Chat, Mimi, a cat of unknown origin who has decided that living in the vicinity of this house is the wisest decision she has ever made! Many funny discussions have been had over plants and rose wine. Tina was telling me the other day of a local farmer who informed her that his cows speak to him, as he hung over the fence chatting with her and prodding a sleepy looking cow alongside him. "Mais oui," he said authoritatively. "I'm sure she speaks cow to me." He glanced at Tina slyly, looking for any sign of doubt. "I don't understand her," he continued, "but I hear her talking to her calf, so I know she talks to me too." Can't argue with that logic! Along the same lines, she also told me about another farmer who calls his cow Vera. When queried about the name, he said that when he calls her, he simply says "Allo Vera" - simple logic again, The laconic speech of these old men of the soil is second to none. They have tilled and scratched a living out of the land for generations. It is one of the things that I am constantly reminded of when here. Today, we walked briefly on the Pilgrim Trail that runs through this area, the St Jacques de Compostela. I was aware as I scuffed the earth, of the thousands of people of all ages and faiths who have walked the same path over centuries, some say since the year 810. Did they get the same sense of peace that I had as I walked?