Sunday 4th May

A beautiful day in the P-O – blue skies, a few friendly, fluffy white clouds scudding by from time to time and a light breeze. Definitely ‘out in the garden’ weather and certainly time to put suncream on, judging by the colour of my nose after a bike ride to Argelès! And would you believe it – I swallowed another fly! I am going to have to learn to breathe through my nose when I’m riding and keep my gob shut – an event which would be worth writing about in itself! Everybody should swallow a fly at least once, just for the experience. I thoroughly recommend it. The little varmints go straight for the tonsils and it’s impossible to be sure if you’ve spagged them out or not! You spend the first five minutes hawking and spitting (and in my case, not being an experienced trajectile spitter, I usually end up with saliva all down my arm and leg where I’ve not managed to clear my body bulk) and the rest of the ride convinced that it’s still there, involving lots more periodical slobbering and drooling. What fun!

This morning I rode my bike along the new road on the Le Boulou – Argelès route, soon to become a dual carriage way but as yet ‘interdit’ to all traffic apart from me! I felt like king of the road! In these two photos you can see the old road which cars are still using in both directions. Just look at the graffittii! Why is it that some people feel the need to deface and destroy? I just don’t get it.Last week I visited chateau Esparrou in Canet. Just off the main beach road, this cave and wine tasting venue is a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of Canet plage an oasis of peace and tranquility amongst the candy floss and suntan oil. It also offers you an audio guided walking tour (walkman or MP3 supplied) through the vineyards, with views extending from the headland of Cerbère to the mystic Canigou, and sweeping down to the Canet étang, protected nature reserve with its pink flamingos, coots, cormorants and herons. This 2km walk, full of the odours and atmosphere of a working ‘vignoble’, passes through vineyards of Grenache noir, Syrah, Macabeu blanc, Cabernet, Muscat, Carignan,…… Well worth a visit, if for no other reason than to meet Maggie, Essex girl and ex go go dancer who works in the ‘dégustation’ bit. Lovely, lovely lady. Haven’t tried the wine yet though!

Thursday 15th May
Very wierd weather at the moment – yesterday morning I woke up to a fresh new covering of snow on the Canigou yet the temperatures remain warm and the cherries seem to be thriving. Yes! Cherries absolutely everywhere. Everybody who is anybody is setting up home made cherry stalls on the roadsides and the cherries are looking good this year, despite torrential rain last week.<br>
Have you heard of the ‘Saints de Glace’? It seems that May 11th, 12th and 13th are the feast days of saints Mamertius, Pancras, and Gervais who each host days which are tradtionally the coldest of the month and most likely to bring a late frost. Maybe they bought the snow to the Canigou?

Well, it’s May isn’t it? The swallows are back aren’t they? They’re nesting just above our front door aren’t they? They’re so cute aren’t they? NOT! Yep, here we go again with flying poo, mud and bird slobber on the menu every time we open the door. Can anybody send me a bird whisperer? The problem is that I am too soft to stop them or destroy the nest, because I would worry that I was making a birdie family homeless. If only they could just follow a few basic hygiene rules!

The first couple of weeks in May are a bit of a pain in France. There are so many bank holidays – Thursday May 1st, (Fete du travail) Thursday 8th, (Victoire) Sunday 11th (Pentecote) – and many offices and small business ‘font le pont’, linking a Thursday holiday with a long weekend, so nothing gets done. if you’ve been waiting for workmen or goods to be delivered, forget it until the end of the month – and than you’ll be heading towards summer break so you need to get any work in very quickly before everybody stops for a month or two!! Having said that, I must admit that when I was teaching, bank holidays were life lines in the middle of a busy term, when reports, field trips, extra lunchtime and afterschool clubs for GCSE and A level rode parallel with a normal teaching timetable.

It has just started pouring down! Olivier is on the roof of our future ‘casot’ slipping and sliding around in the rain, frantically trying to cover the polystyrene roofing that he has just put up and which musn’t get wet. Oooops!

{{{Thursday 22nd May}}}
Moody, unpredictable, changeable, erratic, inconsistent, temperamental, volatile……… no, I’m not talking about my 15 year old adolescent son, (although I could if you wanted a twenty minute rant!!) but about the Pyrenees-Orientales weather! It just can’t seem to make its mind up what it wants to be when it grows up. A hot sunny day? A dull and cloudy one? Spitty rain and lightning? Violent winds? Make up your bloody mind Mr Weather man – we’re all holding our breath in anticipation of summer which seems to be slightly constipated and squeezing itself through very slowly!

Her Royal Hairiness hasn’t been too well lately, which is why I don’t write so often as recounting my life here is great fun and I don’t see the point of inflicting the very rare sad bits on others – everyone has their own problems without having to read about mine! However, she has perked up a little and it looks like she’s going to be around to pee on my plants and fall into the pool for another season, despite having insulin injections twice a day and costing me well over a thousand euros worth of vet treatment so far. I will take it out of her pocket money but she is worth every penny and more!

The school holidays are approaching and what a relief that will be! School is very different here for Lucien, compared to the British system. He is approaching the end of his ‘troisième’ – equivalent to year 10 in England, and has to make a choice of career now and change schools. He can either go on to Lycée and take a general course, roughly equivalent in idea to A levels, or opt to go to a ‘lycée professionnel’ which would be much easier academically and prepare him for a specific trade such as landscape gardener, plumber, electrician. I find it very early to make a decision like this and feel he should have another year to get over being fifteen! He has two days left to chose his option and is playing ostrich and ignoring it all, in the hope that it will all just go away. I wonder who on earth he gets that from!

The next P-O Life has just gone to the printer and should be ready to pick up and distribute by the end of next week. It is SO exciting – I love the planning and researching, discussing with my designer Marine Sophie what will go where and how to present it – it is all such great fun. This month I found out about a symbol of Catalan resistance during WW2, the village of Valmanya ( Great valley in Latin) on the CD 13 coming from Vinça, which was totally destroyed by the Germans in August 1944, not long before the liberation, in reprisal against resistance fighters operating in the area . According to the village website, villagers who were unable to flee to the safety of the mountains were rounded up in the middle of the village and machine gunned. From this ‘maquis’ stronghold, Captain Julien PANCHOT, later to be brutally tortured and killed, led brave resistance fighters who sheltered in the nearby mines of La Pinosa and set up the Sainte Jeanne escape route for refugees. The village was rebuilt but the ruins of the mines can still be seen in the vallée de LA RABAÇA. I will definitely visit there soon – I am fascinated by the atmosphere of places like this which have seen so much human interaction. What must it have been like for the villagers to be rounded up like animals? How can we ever explain or even begin to comprehend man’s inhumanity to man?

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