Thursday, 29 October 2009
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Sunday, 25 October 2009
This year is more poignant than ever waking to the news that a dear friend has lost their sister after a long illness. Grieving for the loss of warmth and sunshine seems so trivial at this time.
Time changes too. The long case clock ticks away our lives as it always has and is easy to change. For a long time this was really all I needed to change, I do not own a watch. Insidiously clocks have got everywhere forcing the passage of time and life before us. Weeks can pass before they are all found and a means to change them remembered, I have just recalled that there is one in my darkroom thermometer! No need to change that really as time does not exist when I go in there.
A sad day and soon the darker evening will envelop us but thoughts are with Melissa.
Friday, 23 October 2009
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Monday, 19 October 2009
Friday, 16 October 2009
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Sort of back in real time. We have both been struck down with really bad colds since returning and now cough duets. I was sold some cough mixture to help loosen up, I was told that it would taste like hell but was the best they had, I love it and will miss it when the cough stops, lots of licorice, yum.
Quite a shock getting back in more ways than one. Our cards had stopped working but we did not expect them to fail on the first visit to the supermarket on the way back from the airport, only bought essentials and have been living off them and cans for a week. Finally ventured out today once cards had been revived. The colds were bad and the physical cold after the high twenties was a shock. Having to wear clothes again! I miss the sparkle off the toes but I am not going out in these temperatures without socks.There was a lot of unhappiness on the blogs when I returned in July so I kept away just incase, you did not let me down! Do you all wait till I am away?
Never again will I leave the epilator behind! A months re growth was a bit much to take off everywhere but I did it yesterday when there was some good light. Re growth is so soft compared to the stubble which came after I shaved, how could I have been so dumb?
We had a wonderful time with the food as you probably figured out, you just have to be an omnivore to really enjoy France. So much choice we never got round to snails though they were available to buy at 6.90 euros per kilo if you wanted them. By walking in the hills around and on the sandy shore line and the odd bike ride I came back almost exactly the same weight as when I set off, that is a first. Will power was the answer, not always taking a starter dish or forgoing a desert. They thought me a little odd at first knowing what a fan of the food I am. The figs kept me regular!
One of the reasons for going was to measure up a gallery space situated in an old chapel. I had been offered the chance of an exhibition there for some time and had told them that next May / June would be good. Julie wanted May, she likes the cooler weather, my vote would be for June so that I could spend the mornings getting a seamless suntan on the beach! The exhibition space inside the old church offers some challenges, I love the rough whitewashed walls, obviously if I framed up pictures like I would in a regular selling show I would need two cars to transport them so I am working on some other ideas. This is just being done for my vanity and pleasure and to show people who know me just what I have done, any sales will just be a bonus.
Oh yes and as you can see the date with Alain has given me my first change of hair style since I was at school nearly forty years ago a couple of years before my old profile picture was taken.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Back home again. Strangely I have never felt homesickness about leaving my parental home mainly because I felt driven out even though in their eyes my parents thought they had given me a good home. Physical comfort but emotional desert and unbreathable air! When I do feel home sickness is when I leave this little corner of France so back home again is absolutely correct!
A strange absence of vehicles greeted us in the parking but the next generation appears to be nocturnal especially in the hot summer months so we did not think too much about it. There was to be a four day life coaching course running in the restaurant for the last days of our stay so we have had to leave the luxury of the old granny flat with en-suite facilities and have to use L’s room which was an absolute tip when we left for Portugal. He just camps here between seasonal jobs and even then often just stays out especially when his girl comes down to the coast for her weekend job, someone is having some fun. By some miracle the room was reasonably useable and we were so tired we hardly noticed at first anyway. Fell asleep is the best and correct description! Our sacrifice of the room for this long weekend paid for the tickets to Portugal!
We had to be fairly self-sufficient for these last days since Y would have to be around much of the time to organise the B and B guests and extra help for the quicker than normal lunches. Naturally they had broken one of the vehicles and it was away in hospital already, L had gone for a sleepover! He would not be back with the van till his turn to help out in the evening. We dare not take Sophia’s 4x4 until it was sure that it was not needed. A lazy start suited us, I finished the child’s high chair with a final full coat of paint then read till lunch, scraps arrived from the course lunch before we could even think what we were going to do.
Not wanting to hang around the house for four days we did eventually get wheels and made trips out. We made the long hot climb which before had been shaded, up to the Marine Memorial Chapel, there had been an unexpected diversion through the pines and vines on the hills of La Clape near Narbonne probably due to a bike race. We rediscovered the small coastal villages which we had not seen for years. Much has changed but 75 kilometers of coastal walks have been created along this ancient coastline. We were diverted to Gruissan, once all built on stilts and the setting for a once popular film “ Betty Blue “. On the Saturday modern life nearly stranded us, France still tries to have weekends so petrol has to be bought by confronting self service machines which speak strange tech French and in our case spat back all our cards which came into force on the first of the month even though we had called before leaving to say where and when we would be using the darn things, This happened to us once before when we drove deep into the country to a two Michelin star restaurant and I was to pay for this outrageous treat, all I took was reading specs and the card and it failed to work! We had enough fuel to get back home and borrow another card, I can hardly remember the numbers for my own cards but now have Y’s number etched into my skull and it will not fade.
The weather was a bit strange, still in the high twenties but feeling less with the lower sun this time of year, the wind dropped with calm air over most of southern France. When there was wind the sea was calm when it was calm there would often be rough seas but still great temperatures for a swim. Julie, who these days does not like the extra trek to the naturist beach, decided the weather was ideal, there was a cloudless blue sky from horizon to horizon, so we managed to spend one whole afternoon swimming and reading and me taking long walks. I have started using the iPod on some of my beach walks, set on random the pace and cadence changes, sometimes with the right tune you can work up a real catwalk hip swinging strut which brings out a real beaming smile!
Food was stocked up for easy light vegetarian meals with artichokes, French beans to eat with vinaigrette and chicory which we pay nearly a euro per piece but there cost little more for a kilo bag! The evenings at the restaurant were not full at this end of the season so we got several meals as a treat, how else can we honestly recommend the place to anyone? A change from our all veg meals in the house! When we had the lobster the battery was being charged for the camera!! Veal kidneys had been ordered for me as a special treat, C must keep a list of my requests, we got tongue and sweetbreads on the last trip. I get to slip my iPod onto the dock and pick my own music selection.
Before we knew it the long awaited holiday was over. Just as well with the money all gone and the comatose credit cards. With the circumstances we had nothing to carry off home except the tin of cassoulet which we had given up to eat the lobster, it was the perfect gift for our neighbours. Scottish friends had just phoned to say that they were on the Atlantic coast but would visit if there was a bed free, they had collected rash purchases for us before like a marble topped cast iron table which would be a bit tricky by air, they will bring back some wine for us. We made the decision to abandon most of the mid season clothes we had taken and not needed so that in future we only need hand luggage and can save hours of checking in and can visit at short notice at any time of year.
I did get transport on the Friday so went for a couple of hours on the beach by myself. I switched my super cheap mobile on to keep an eye on the time, on holiday I need to know the time! The thing burst into life all excited, a call had been made on it from Spain and now someone thinks I am going to make expensive calls in France. At least I now know I can be rescued from the beach if the car gives trouble! Still quite relaxed about my date, I think. I am in a bit of a mess after my swim having forgotten that my hair was still braided up from the trip and getting more than a little ratty and sticky with all the salt so I had to go home to get cleaned up, all vestiges of the soaking in Chanel from the duty free will be long gone! I wish I had been able to totally relax and enjoy the touch of a new human being. This was not the quick hug and kiss I am used to but close personal attention which I have not experienced for countless years. There was some pop playing in the background, when I was able to name the singer as Lily Allen we knew we were on the same wavelength, we may be both getting on a bit but still young at heart! My French is embarrassingly bad considering how many times I have visited but I have spent too much time giving the kids intensive training in English which they now appreciate. Any how we were getting along just fine, one to one is not so bad if nobody else is listening in. When I was asked to turn round and bend forward it was done before I realised that I had understood! He says he does not get to do this very often but it gives him great pleasure, I got that too! We are going to meet again, he was pleased when I told him how often we may be visiting France now there are no work restrictions. I was not really sure about this but it went much better than I could have ever imagined. Perhaps we can come back for the almond blossom in February / March, must work on this.
Breakfast in the cafe next door, a fraction of the price you pay in France, no wonder the locals are in and out all the time, tall milky coffee in a glass and pain au chocolate! Then ready for the day.
We first wanted to see the old market so set off on foot up the street of shops which we came down last night. Julie and Y are completely different shoppers, one wants to look at nearly everything, the junkier the better while the other hates shopping. I pushed them both into a closing down sale of accessories and set off in search of the top I had lusted over the night before. Did not note the shop because the thing was in the window but how was I to know that they would change it before I got up! Julie and Y came out each with new necklaces and bits, the necklaces never came off for the whole trip, Y slept in hers!
By now we need another break so stop at the Majestic Cafe which is aptly named. Built as a grand cafe in the 1920’s it is one of only two remaining from then and still putting on the style. There was another which was recently sold to Mcdonalds for the site! Fabulous coffee and an almond cake with the most stylish servers you will find anywhere.
Hardly out of the cafe when I spot a shirt for Y in another sale, they are everywhere! A 50’s print shirt which gets worn for much of the rest of the trip before being purloined by Sophia on our return! The market takes up a whole block partly under repair as usual and all run by women of close to retirement age which gives it great character but does not bode well for the future. There were fruit and vegetables we had never seen plus every shape and style of bacalhau, salt cod, that you could dream up plus all the parts of a pig you would never eat either smoked or unsmoked! The place was full of art students painting and sketching away so I did not feel so out of place when the camera finally came out.
We could not find an easy bus to the river so jumped in taxi again and within a couple of minutes were on an hour river tour first up river then almost out to sea. What poverty there is with shanty houses hanging off the cliffs, old abandoned factories and warehouses litter the shore as picturesque ruins. By the time we get back we can do nothing but find shade and lunch on the shore. All the businesses are run by local families who have obviously lived through times of hardship and poverty we can hardly imagine. It was like being in a Fellini film set from the 50’s or 60’s, quite the opposite to the Majestic of a few hours before.
The heat was exhausting and I was thankful that Y had braided my hair up for this trip as soon as we arrived but the church of San Francisco was just a few hundred yards up the hill and proved to be a cool oasis for us. They started to use gold leaf to decorate the interior and got a bit carried away using 440 pounds of gold. We had the place to ourselves for about half an hour before others started to arrive. With all that gold you would think they would have fabulous post cards to make up for the photo ban, no.
At the foot of the steps from the church was a tram stop so we used our magic cards for a trip out towards the sea. The 1890’s trams have not long been restored and make an interesting contrast to the modern fleet of buses and the metro. The sea breeze revived us for the wandering back to the hotel and cold shower.
Trying a typical local restaurant was not the best choice but my squid was fine so I was happy, live and learn, more research for tomorrow!
Next day we walked to the nearest square to find some transport as another tram drew up. Y was sent to try her fast returning Portuguese to see if the magic ticket worked on this city tour, in prefect Glaswegian we were told no but hop on for a chat and us being on would draw in paying punters. This is how we learned about the local corruption which is rife, the driver is an engineer who has been abroad most of his life and was on the point of returning to help his old mum. Soon we started to attract paying passengers which he greeted in whatever language was necessary! Then we set off to the other side of town. His parting was a question, what do you call a tram enthusiast? A tramsvestite! Apparently I had been a distraction while he was telling his stories, I had been too interested in the details of the tram to notice so I guess he thought I was a…
We were hardly off the tram when journalism students asked if someone would be filmed while discussing the public transport system, by now we could give them enough for a half hour documentary. This was to be a museum day, decorative art and modern art but first we visited an amazing neogothic bookshop with an unbelievable staircase, postcards rubbish and me unemployed!! The underwear shops were even more fun, for this trip I had had to offer Y a loan of my knickers all hers had been washed to death, do not use linen wash!
Better organised we found a bus back to town which took us to The Hole In The Wall where we got a really good meal, by now we have the portions worked out and factor in the salt cod fish balls which just arrive while you wait so only ordered two main dishes. We could not leave without at least a glass of port, we ordered two and got two glasses and they left the bottle of exceptional tawny port on the table! Real value for money. We wander home happy.
By now you have a good idea how we spend our time, a handful of postcards have been written to report on our travels but a people week of looking for somewhere to buy stamps has got us nowhere even when we got directions. The post office was 21 st century chic built into a ruin which is for sale and we had passed several times each day. One year old guides are useless so much closes without warning so we give up and go to the Majestic for a final lunch in style, the new credit card fails to work! Lucky still had some cash. Thursday dish of the day was octopus so that was easy, don’t get that at home!
Three days at this pace feels like a week away so stepping back on the metro just before our ticket expires was almost a relief. The airline charges so much for hold baggage that a full plane had almost none and the cabin was full to overflowing! It was almost 1:20 am after we had driven over the mountains back to France.
Nothing planned for Friday until 5 pm ! I thought I would have been anxious or excited or something. This is something completely out of character I have let myself in for and I am so calm perhaps because he is such a sweet and charming guy. I only worry about getting transport!
Is my poor brain really getting so old that it manages to forget that we did once make a trip to France in August, so I lied.
When I thought back I realised Y and C got married during August!
It was a long time ago and far far away in Normandy where C had been born and brought up. Y and C had been traveling the world working to pay their way, useful to be a chef, you can work anywhere. While in Brazil Sophia was conceived and they decided a bit unconventionally for such an unconventional couple to get married. The French will have a party with the slightest excuse and if food is involved will come in droves, we had one of those.
It was mostly C’s family then again he has seven brothers and one sister so that was a crowd to start with. Little wonder that the parents died young and left the neighbors to finish the job of raising the family. This was about twenty miles inland in the bocage where centuries of use had worn the roads into deep trenches with shady trees forming a canopy above. Cattle never got lost! You did not want to meet traffic head on but there was so little anyway. A small contingency of Brits came. I went with Julie, her mother and her cousin in an old VW camper.
C was to impress his family with a slap up lunch feast so headed off to Les Halles, the big food distribution market in Paris and filled their little estate car to overflowing. We took up residence in the old family home which was empty of all furniture except the dining room, this is France! A superior form of camping, as time went by the place filled up.
I started to scythe a space under the trees in the orchard for the pre wedding feast, exhausting in the heat. Between times we sortied out to markets the like of which no longer seem to exist where local producers came with whatever little they had to sell. I remain haunted by ”the photo which failed at the end of the roll”, an old woman held out an open bag to receive the bunch of small chickens which the seller held by their necks! The ones which get away haunt you for ever, why use a camera, perhaps the faded memories are better.
As the preparations progressed I was asked to drive the camper to collect the communally owned tables from a local farm. I went with C and a new arrival, Fred, It was not a long drive through the sunken lanes, we drove into a medieval farm yard, chickens and animals wandering about. Greeting the farmer we were ushered into the kitchen for a friendly drink. Spirit drinking is not my thing but to be sociable I accepted my glass of pastis and sat at the kitchen table and tried to make sense of the conversation whilst watching the chickens pecking around on the dirt floor. The conversation went on for an eternity because C had been away for so long and there was much catching up to do, I sipped away at my drink then politely placed the empty glass on the table. In a nanosecond it was refilled! Eventually the second glass was empty but I hung on to it for dear life in my new wobbly world. Then people were on their feet and much hand shaking was is progress and C told me that the tables were at the back of the barn and could not be got out so we were to return the next day. I did manage to drive back but mainly because it was impossible to drive off the road since it was only as wide as the van and as deep! The next day I made myself scarce to avoid a repeat performance.
Fred had squeezed his family of wife and small children into a Lancia Fluvia sports car which he said was not running smoothly, could I take a ride with him to try and find the fault? Well he drove that thing all over the countryside at speeds well over a hundred miles an hour and we just could not find anything wrong with it at all!
C spent a couple of days preparing his feast, legs of lamb went into ovens all over the community, cases of langoustine crabs and various shellfish were coked at the last minute. Smoked salmon and sliced cold meats spread on platters, chickens roasted and much I have forgotten, all spread over about 7 metres of table. After everyone had arrived at the house garden and drunk a champagne toast to the couple a procession made it’s way to the orchard and the spread laid out for them. The whole scene was as if from the Bayeux Tapestry, C’s family are pure Norman, probably Vikings who have not moved for nearly 2000 years. Eating and drinking proceeded for several hours before someone announced that there was a ridiculously short time left before we were supposed to be before the local Mayor for the ceremony, an old Le Manns style race start ensued.
The ceremony took place in the tiny local school hall with everyone crowed round a huge table. The mayor, a small guy with a big sash and his young glamorous assistant presided, children hung with their noses just over the edge of the table, couple and witnesses formed up on one side. Every time he managed to get his tongue round some fiercely Scottish names of bride and witness the cheer from the crowd was as loud as when France scores a goal in the world cup. Before you knew it the ceremony was over and the designated photographer was allowed less than two minutes to get a picture on the front steps of the beaming bride bulging with here five months belly and clutching her small fox terrier Spotty instead of a bunch of flowers next to here new husband and a swirling chaos of guests. Then they were gone. The air filled with the noise of car horns as the drove around randomly to make sure everyone knew something had happened then they went to the local cafe to drink. Having little stamina most of the Brits took a late siesta!
The real meal took place in the evening! We drove some miles to a hotel and had a sit down banquet. The only dishes I now recall are the quails stuffed with currants, The French bit off the heads and crunching noises followed! The pike in a butter sauce was exquisite and the tower of profiteroles higher than I thought possible. In the early hours of the morning the old black dressed widows who had looked after the kids when younger got tired and I grabbed the chance to escape by being a bus driver, by now we were exhausted. It was some hours later when the riot returned to the house. It is traditional, at least was then, for the new couple to be given a mixture of white wine and chocolate in a chamber pot which they are to consume, symbolic of what to expect from marriage? I don’t know. Sensitive Y substitutes one of her mothers large ceramic bowls to soften the blow!
The couple retire as they are supposed to while the party just goes on and if anything gets even noisier. Exasperated and unable to sleep Y finally driven to her wits end strode out stark naked with large bump and screamed that she wanted some peace to be able to sleep, she seemed to get their attention.
The following day the French returned to do the pre wedding lunch again! Most of us Brits had slunk off to visit Mont Saint Michele and laze on the beach all afternoon. Y’s performance was not going to be beaten and we had eaten enough food for a week.
Not too sure what it means when an event like this can slip your memory. The event got Julie thinking about catching up with her little sister and my fate was sealed.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
The new business which I had been helping get going at the beginning of the year is going like a fair so we are left to our selves much of the time. This suits Julie who just wants to read and unwind while I keep myself occupied with anything and everything. There is endless washing, the French love linen napkins, fortunately in this heat, usually 28 degrees by lunchtime, this is no problem if only someone will hang them! The sun and heat are quite damaging so there are always repairs and painting jobs to do, C is a sweet guy but there are lots of things he just will not do, the blog is not long enough to list them!
I knocked apart a high chair for children and re-glued and painted a solid three coats so that Sophia can do her final decorating flourishes. The dining table on the terrace looks like new again with a solid French racing blue. B & B guests often eat here in the mornings so I felt they should be somewhat smarter than Y’s happily tatty! I am on Sophia’s side with the new style of presentation which goes with the newly built restaurant. Obviously we had to do some extensive testing of the new menus often sharing a table with some of the many people we have come to know over the years of visiting. It was quite late in the season for many of those with holiday homes and the vendage was still in progress for those involved with the grapes so there were not as many visitors as usual.
The grape picking has changed a lot in the time we have been coming here. Thirty years ago the fields were small and planted with hand tended bushes which were hand picked by teams of workers to a strict set of rules to conform with the Appellation code. A few times I have had to do some of this back breaking work to help someone get the last grapes in before the time deadline. They could only pick on dates decided by the local group and once started there was a strict order for grape varieties and a date after which they could not be included in the valued appellation wine. Since the local co-op went bankrupt many have taken to making their own Vin De Pays with different grape mixes.
Nobody wants to work the fields by hand now so the old fields get grubbed up, excellent winter fuel, and they either get paid to never grow grapes again! Or they form large prairie like fields of wire trained vines which can be harvested by an enormously expensive machine which straddles the rows with the driver in an air conditioned cab! Along with the ridges covered with ever more huge windmills the romance has abated somewhat.
The windmills do help with navigation when you are biking on the winding tracks through the unmarked back country, I forgot how hard this was, lungs bursting and throat rasping with the effort! Out of condition as are the bikes which I so carefully trained the kids to maintain. I would have done more but the saddle was too low for extended use and corroded in place! And falling apart! We abandoned most of our clothes at the end of the trip hoping that we could just arrive with hand luggage to save time and money and to save thinking about what to pack! Just passport and pills! If I could just find somewhere where I could keep a bike safe from their hands…
The heat just continued, how they survive the August heat I do not know. That is the only month we have not sampled and now doubt that we shall, Julie does not do well in the heat so I usually get a time on the beach by myself to walk in the surf and sometimes just float like a cork. At the cooler times we could get out to eat oysters at the coast where the oyster farmers can only sell the shellfish with white sliced bread and butter and white wine, or we go for a staggeringly expensive ice cream concoction at a beachside cafes.
At night in late September I still have to sleep uncovered it is so warm but Y has organised a wee trip to Porto on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. She is a dreamer and usually greets us at the airport with dreams of crazy voyages but now that she has some money again we are to fly to what she says will be a cooler place for three days, I think C is glad of the peace of three days to himself. We pack for cooler days and take Sophia’s car since that seems to be the only means of transport working and head to Spain for a late afternoon flight. It takes hardly any time to fly since we pass back into Scottish time zone!
The Airport is the complete opposite of where we landed in France, this is acres of polished granite as far as the eye can see with integrated parking and new metro system built into the main building. We later find out how this happened. For 11e each we are able to buy a 72 hour transport pass, since we are here for almost exactly 72 hours this is great. We wave it in front of the electronic sensor and are on our way into town 11 kilometers away. As luck would have it we came out of the ground halfway up a hill, we soon discovered the whole place is hills and every corner takes you up or down! We come out of the ground to be confronter with a church completely covered in blue and white tiles, exactly what three ceramic fans were hoping to see! From here it was downhill on black and white cobbled marble pavement through one of the most popular shopping streets. I spot a perfect asymmetrical top in a window and aim to return when they open. This city was once rich but has fallen into decay and like many other places seems to have been allowed to go too far before restoration starts so smart often has boarded up nearby. We are not staying at the Hilton but at a simple hotel / hostel on the edge of the old town which we find easily. Once we climb the marble stairs to reception Jeronimo greets us and Y’s Portuguese finally starts to come out, just as well, me and Julie know not a single word at this point!
Our bags are thrown into the room on the top floor, a quick wash and we are off in the taxi called by Jeronimo to the opposite bank of the river to get a night time view of the city, we get an exciting high speed trip through winding back streets to drop from the cliff top to the river bank. I look at the view and let them argue about restaurants, I know when it is best to keep out of the way of two sisters. The choice was obvious but … we sit down at the rivers edge looking directly across to the old port with a huge arching newly restored bridge to the right and the old river boats which brought the port wine down river anchored in front of us. We are gastronomic tourists! I choose their famous tripe casserole and get some funny looks saying “are you sure?” Julie chooses a creamy dish with salt cod, the other local speciality which we have yet to find a good example of, Y chooses something with 3000 calories which she read about on the plane, we say we are full when offered a taste! The best salt cod ever and my dish was great too, the portions were more than generous. We had been the last to arrive at ten pm so got prompt service, at eleven pm we were drinking our coffee in short shirt sleeves and still quite warm, so much for cooler!
Another taxi called by the waiter had us back quickly and cheaply to the hotel where we all lay naked trying to cool down. This all sounds quite erotic but has become somehow quite normal, in fact after thirty years I don’t think Y even bothers to look closely any more and even though we have spent hours on the beach and I have been lying just a few feet away I don’t think she has really observed some significant modifications! Well it is so warm I shall have to sleep naked on top of the sheets for three nights. If she ever gets her nose out of the airport thriller she bought in Gerona perhaps she will notice!
Two and a half days to go, I don’t care what we do so will mostly tag along and enjoy the ride if they don’t just wander off and get lost, think taking two cats for a walk…
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
We tried a new way to the sun, unfortunately the times seem to have changed since I first investigated this route and we have to start off at 2 am.! Well at least it was fun driving on empty roads for 90% of the way. The airport at Edinburgh was a hive of activity at 4 am, the first people we met were the couple who run the gallery where I have been exhibiting. They had been sleeping in the airport with uncountable others. Our cheap airline has the last gate, it took an eternity to get there before joining the pantomime of disorganization which seems to be the trademark of cheap Irishair.
No idea which way we flew, cloud all the way then we climb down into the heat of mid morning in Carcasonne. Y had just arrived at the moment we collected our luggage which took 2 seconds after arriving at the carrousel! Parking was all of 30 feet from the terminal and free! We think we are going to love this airport, how wrong can you be?
I had hoped that we would visit the old town again and have a cassoulet for lunch but Y just wanted to head home for an early lunch just one hour away. Arms ached waving to people we know on the way through the village. We have arrived near the equinox and they expect a little mixed weather so Y suggests that we go straight to the naturist beach after lunch! I am starting to enjoy this holiday already! What joy to be in the water again and to be able to dry in the warm sunshine. About 140 flamingoes in the lagoon on the way home. After our early start we headed to bed earlier than usual There was an almighty crash of thunder like I have never heard before followed by torrential rain but after a few seconds I just fell asleep again. We woke to find a sodden world and sediments dumped by the torrents which had flowed everywhere. As soon as the sun came out the place started to dry out at an impressive rate but it would be a few days before we had the comfort of cushions! With the sun came Babette, always a keen hugger and kisser! Our tidy up was rewarded by a lunch of wild mushroom soup with quenelle de volaile and a fish mousse wrapped in a fine fillet of salmon Julie had a tresse de poisson, several long fillets of different fish plaited together, then a hard pressed espresso. This could be dangerous for the waistline!
I cleaned their car till it was only dirty! Then we headed off for supplies to be self sufficient, I need my fix of artichokes especially. Figs and Muscat grapes I get from the garden.
Sleepless night followed by a 48 hour flu like cold took care of the rest of the weekend, I ached everywhere but started walking in the hills around the village to help clear my head. Even longer walk the next day because the kids ( in 20’s but…) took the cars, then lazy time reading and cooking.
Julie had her hair cut just outside the supermarket last time we were in France, It was OK but… I started to ask around about hairdressers, Sophia and Babette were unanimous that the place to go was Le Jardin Du Coiffeur in Leucate so I got Julie to call and she got an appointment for that afternoon. I enjoy watching this process though I have not been to a hairdressers myself since I was at school 40 years ago. This guy was a magician with the scissors and as with most skilled workers was a joy to watch. Determined to get the old hippy Y to get her unruly mop done too.
Now that the basic week here is four days we had tuesdays to thursdays to go out as family of tourists and we did. A day at Collioure swimming off the beach in the heart of the old town and visited the ancient Abbey at Fontfoide passing the largest graveyard for 2CVs that I have ever seen. Between times the seamless suntan was worked on by frequent beach visits. Eventually on Friday Y went and had herself transformed, at last the two sisters were stylish together!
The family beach visits tend to be wet costume affairs, C has never been to our Aphrodite beach even though he has by far the best figure for it! Being mid to late 20’s the kids are just not ready for the naturist way so continue to pose in their beachwear! The naturist beach is a much more relaxed place, everyone has plenty of space and naturally give each other an instinctive balanced space which never gets invaded. Well until now! In over 20 years I have been generally happily ignored, so I was more than a little surprised to find a well tanned and oiled body with more than his fair share of equipment come and pose just eight feet away on an almost deserted stretch of sand, there was as tangible sense of disappointment as he was ignored by me. Thinking perhaps I had not got the message the performance was repeated the next day. All I could think about was what would you do with something like that? Does it live down your trouser leg or what? Must have thought it was an offer not to be refused. You bonjour everyone you meet here so I gave the blandest bonjour of my life as I passed on my way off the beach an hour later to show that there was absolutely no interest. Never been tried to be picked up while naked before! Only gay guys ever seem to find me attractive!
I like France and the relaxed and naturally stylish way many of them have, and all the life on the street. I suppose there is something of a template of an ideal stylish sensual woman I would be searching for if I was in the market, imagine my surprise when I found myself getting a bit tingly when Alain comes up to me and says things about my eyes then brushes away the curtain of hair to see them better! A shortish hippy type about as scruffy as me but charming as hell. Lives are busy but Y helps make a date to meet again for the end of work the next Friday when we return from a short trip. My French is hopeless but I am sure we shall manage somehow. I leave them to chat for a few moments then hear her surprise when Alain describes me as elle! This is the second time we have met for half an hour each time and he thinks of me as she! Said it was the soft small breasts showing under my tee shirt that clinched it, they are almost nothing! Obviously I am putting out the right signs. Y is not completely on message about the changes even though she was the first one I told about the facial hair removal all those years ago.
She is told by him that it makes no difference anyway!!
I have a week to anticipate this rendezvous.