Tuesday 1st May}
I have tried SO hard to be sophisticated and subtle! Moving to France, to a region of wild and unbridled beauty, of culture and tradition, has done nothing whatsoever to ‘culturize’ me or reprogram my toilet sense of humour. I KNOW we’re supposed to take wine seriously here but honestly – how can anybody open a bottle of Arse without just a slight twitch of the lips?? I was skipping around Carrefour this morning when there is was – a full shelf of arses staring down at me and daring me not to burst into hysterical guffaws of laughter. The arse won! Wouldn’t you think that the makers of wine would check first that their name was going to be taken seriously around the world? Anyway, I helped them out by buying a case which I am now going to test – and I will report back shortly, provided of course, that I haven’t landed on my arse! Bottoms up!

Well, that is not bad at all – a very tight little wine with attitude – absolutely a ‘vin ordinaire’ but very drinkable. To accompany, we ordered a cous cous from the takewaway in Maureillas. Wow! I leapt out of the car just outside, ready to grab the bags of takeaway and leg it back to the table whilst it was still warm…..but no. Take a look at the photos and see what I got! Totally home made, pretty delicious and highly recommended at 12€ per person. “Don’t wash the pots” I was told
(like I have a problem with not washing pots!) “Just bring them back as they are before Wednesday please”

Wednesday 9th May
Another evening on the Arse, which is rapidly disappearing in front of my eyes. Ten green bottles standing on the wall have now become two green bottles standing on the wall , and if one green bottle should accidentally fall – well, I would have to buy another! The weather here is absolutely gorgeous and I’m beginning to get that holiday glow of red wine, sun and approaching middle age – maybe not such a pretty sight to the innocent bystander – but feels very good to me! The recent torrential rain has turned the Albères into an emerald green forest. Summer is not quite here yet – the forecast predicts rain and wind this weekend but after that, in the words of Annie Lennox, the only way is up.

Now onto yeuchy stuff! Lulu got bitten in the neck by a spider yesterday. He’s been rather philosophical about it actually (it was only a little chap and not deadly I’m told!) and agreed to pose for a spider bite photo as long as a) I ‘photoshopped’ the rather unsightly crop of acne that has resulted in walking round in very hot weather with a motor bike helmet on and b) that I don’t put it in my diary. Ooooh. Silly boy. You really should know me better than that! Nevertheless, in an uncharacteristic burst of motherly love, I’ve blurred out the face and accentuated the bite. We’re hoping that he’ll turn into spiderman during the night, and we can send him out to scale the walls of the local bank tomorrow and bring us back lots of dosh.

Saturday 12th May
Another beautiful day in the P-O, despite a weather forecast yesterday predicting doom and gloom. Zoomed into Céret this morning to deliver something before the market started. If you haven’t been to Céret Saturday market, you really must put it on your ‘things to do’ list! The actual market is probably no different from any other market – fruit and vegetables, wine and fresh herbs, meat and poultry and organic products, a thousand stinky cheeses, home made on the farm, art and ornaments, books and clothes, candles and essential oils…… but there is always a busker playing sax or guitar, and the ever present plane trees providing shade on a warm day, and sitting outside a café just on the edge of the crowds, drinking perrier tranche and watching the world go by, it is impossible not to sigh a real big sigh and say to yourself ‘Wow!’ I took this photo this morning at 7am before the market really got going. As you can see, Céret is getting dressed up for summer, in this case with catalan flags for the sardane festival taking place this weekend.

A quick stop at the Intermarché outside Céret on the way back reminded me that I needed to stock up on calories ready for the first day of my next diet (Diets can only legally start on a Monday in the PO so I use the weekend to prepare my poor thin, waif-like little body fo the ordeal ahead). The intermarché have some really nice new desserts in the fridge department with the yoghurts. – I thoroughly recommend them as something to ‘have in’. I like them so much that I took a picture! Yummy, yummy!

As Olivier lit the bbq for lunch, he bit his lip and didn’t mention (much) the two lemon meringue thingies I tested before my turkey kebabs! Well, who made the rule that deserts have to come after main courses? If you look at the photo of my lunch (actually, I don’t really want to talk about it – I’m feeling a bit sick) you’ll see the calçots onions which undergo a special growing process in which they are taken out of the ground, saved for a couple of months and planted again, deeper in the ground, so that the onion grows elongated and there is more tender white flesh, untouched by the sun – a long, gangly spear something between a leek and a spring onion. The process takes a year and the calçots are harvested in February and March. Look out in the events lists for a Calçotada, a sort of communal downing of char grilled onions. The Catalan tradition for an “-ada” (a meal, usually for 1,000 mouths or more, based around a single ingredient which could be anything from snails to chocolate – bullinada, cargolada etc), often creates some highly unusual, charming and community spirited festivals. A Calçotada is one of them – great fun but very stinky on the old breath! Ours were delish but as I was the only one to eat them, I had too many and now, snapping on the heels of the lemon meringue pie, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t recommend the mix!

Friday 18th May
The weather is absolutely gorgeous – finally! This is probably the first really nice day that we’ve had for a while and it changes the whole perspective of the PO. People have lost that slight frown that comes automatically with “That wind is driving me mad” or “I’m getting fed up of this rain” and are walking round with a “Now I remember why I moved here” smile.

I have a really clever little wheeze for round people. Buy jeans or a skirt that is at least one size too big for you and keep pulling at the waistband to show how thin you are. I feel like I’ve lost pounds!

Bisou has become the academic of the family. In our other lives, Olivier was language coordinator at Leeds Uni and I was a (shhhhh say it softly..) teacher. Now we have left all that behind, the dog is training up so that poor Lulu still has a bit of literary influence in his life. I came into our ‘office’ to find her studying ‘The Wonder Book of Tell Me Why’ this morning – honest, it’s not a set up! She might be barking up the wrong tree – that book is ruff going – but she seemed quite absorbed.

Finally for today, I have to report that, sad person that I am, I have found another silly wine. Friends bought me a bottle of Fat Bastard round yesterday (were they trying to tell me something I wonder?) and I am trying to contact the cave to see if they can send me a case round! Don’t know what it tastes like but who cares!

Monday 21st May
Lulu’s German penfriend arrived from Breisach yesterday. Having spent most of my teaching career organising exchanges for other people’s children, it feels really odd to be on the other end! As we waited outside the lycée in Ceret for their coach to arrive, I had this distinct urge to start bossing people around.

I washed my car yesterday for the first time in months. Guess what? During the night, we had a visit from the Sirocco, a southern wind bringing hot dry air from Africa. This wind is quite rare in the region but when it blows, it leaves everything covered in a layer of fine red sand – souvenir from the Sahara dessert ! This morning my nice clean white car was covered in a layer of red dust AND to add insult to injury, my battery was flat!

If you follow the Anglophone forum, you will know that I have a bit of a predicament. The swallows are moving back into our porch as they did last year and I’m trying to stop them. I love animals, including birds (but excluding snakes, spiders and mozzies) but don’t want to spend another year being plopped on from above every time I poke my nose out of the door, and squelching through bits of poo, pee, sticks and wet mud as they build their cosy little lovenest. I have stood outside with a broom, dismantled the spittle soaked beginnings every hour, put the dog on guard, but they STILL keep coming back and starting again each time. You just have to admire their tenacity! To make it worse, they keep standing on the telephone wire and giving me hurt look – I feel SO mean but I just CANT go through it all again it was less stressful being targeted by anti corrida supporters. I received buckets of good advice but ignored most of it, due to a very guilty conscience, and allowed the little chaps to move in! Mon Dieu! The nest is a mess – no housework being done in that household – and they’ve been slinging lumps of wet mud at our clean white door and walls! They didn’t do this last year, so I really do believe that they are exacting their revenge for being made to feel so unwelcome in the first few weeks. The ground below the nest is covered in wet mud and poo – a warm welcome to visitors who must just think that we are slobs!

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