Thursday, April 1, 2010

2nd Week

Last Sunday afternoon we went for the circular walk around the valley. After two days of rain the atmosphere had that damp earthy smell about it and the sun made frequent efforts to shine. It was very pleasant.
We started up the rough road, passing ‘Peter’s Place’ (more of this another time) with the view down to the ruin of Chateau de Merle. At the top of the lane we turn left onto the departmental road that was improved last year by cutting into the steep rock faces to widen parts of it. In time plants will colonise the rock and the undergrowth will creep back over the scarred earth.

After a while we turn left again and plunge back down into the valley. At the bottom a little bridge crosses the river Célè.
As we approach this bridge we see a man armed with a small, pointed knife. It looks sharp. We exchange ‘bonjours’. We look at the knife and he starts to explain. Jim tells him that we are English and only speak a little French. He speaks more slowly with simpler sentences and we gather that he has come to dig up dandelions that are eaten in France as a salad vegetable. His boot indicates a stubby specimen growing in the asphalt as he speaks. We know this as we saw the plants for sale last week in the garden centre, which amused us. If Pissenlit were popular in Cowbridge we could make easy money with the number that grow in our garden at Eastgate and selling them in the farmer’s market.
Well, I say ‘chacun a son gout’ but not to the man, I didn’t. He has the sharp knife. We exchange a few more pleasantries, not well understood on either side I think, and move on.

The hill snakes up steeply to the village and presently we meet Marie-Therese, who is the wife of Cyprien Dalmon, erstwhile Mayor of Fournoules. The Dalmon family have been good friends to us since we have been coming here; helping us with all manner of problems and giving us bottles of something strong labelled ‘Prune’.

Cyprien and his son Didier farm – cattle – around the mill and cut Matthew’s five fields in the summer in exchange for the hay, which they use to feed Coquette and her foal.

The ponies belong to Flora and Aniais, Cyprien’s granddaughters. The girls visit us occasionally with their parents Brigitte and Dominic and over a glass of wine and some Welsh cakes we struggle with conversation. They live in Montauban but have a holiday home here which is a converted barn on the outskirts of the village. Presumably part of the family farm.

Anyway, Marie-Therese is stretching her legs but she is not doing the full circuit like us. She praises Rufus and our gardening exploits, which have been noted, probably by Cyprien when he was walking past which he does early in the morning before we are up. He does the full circuit, two or three times a week for his health he tells us.

Towards the end of our walk Rufus catches a mouse. He is not sure what to do with it. We walk on, unwilling to witness the business.

There are a lot of mice hereabouts and in the summer when eating outside you can watch them dart in and out of the shrubbery. Rufus will have fine sport then, which I would prefer to his present preoccupation with the lizards. I love these little creatures. As a child in Hampshire I used to catch them and keep them as pets in shoeboxes for a few days (my father was in shoes and we lived over the shop).

You may be wondering how we pass our evenings with no T.V., Bridge, Rotary or even C.A.D.S to amuse us. Well, before we left the U.K. I downloaded several titles from Audiobooks. During the last couple of weeks we have been listening to an unabridged edition of Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantell and very good it has been, too. We rationed ourselves to a couple of hours each night and you may imagine us sitting before the woodburner – me knitting – Rufus farting quietly the other end of the sofa and a glass or two of wine at our elbows listening to the machinations of Thomas Cromwell. It is a rattling good yarn.

I passed my first TMA – only just – but it has encouraged me to make up for lost time and get on with my studies. You will know when I am doing well when I write this blog in French!

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