Saturday 1st October Rabbits,rabbits, rabbits. I think that’s what you’re supposed to say on the first day of a new month, and than turn round three times and stare at the moon. I could be wrong and that could be why the neighbours gave me a funny look and a wide berth this morning!
Anyway, woke up this morning to the clearest, bluest sky you could imagine and guess what? I’ve given birth to a melon! I don’t know how it happened as we never planted any and it is also in an area where Bisou carries out regular weeding forays (gets her snout down into the flowers and pulls up anything living) but there it it – the photographic evidence can leave you in no doubt that it is a melon! Since I discovered it I have gone all maternal and protective and do hourly checks on its heart beat and blood pressure (yes, I know it’s not a living breathing thing but it’s still my baby!) It must have grown from a melon pip thrown into the flower bed – I don’t know whether to water it , pick it or leave it. If you’re a melon expert, could you contact me and tell me what to do with it – I’m in a bit of a panic!

Monday 3rd october <doc1732|right>
I’m feeling a little ‘meloncholy’ today as the aforementioned little chap seems a bit constipated in that there doesn’t seem to be much movement down there in the bowels of the earth! He might also be slightly off colour as he remains stubbornly darkish green.

The hunting season has started in earnest around the PO and in the Maureillas region it is considered dangerous to go out walking in the woods and even on the roads. Each year, there are several people wounded and there have also been deaths – innocent passers-by caught by a stray bullet or a richochet. Last year in the Albères a lady hunteress was killed by a bullet which rebounded off a tree.<doc1734|right>
Each commune decides on its hunting timetable. Here in Maureillas, hunting is allowed on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, with no time limits. If you have followed this diary, then you will know that I am a great francophile and also a great lover of people in general – I try never to generalise and always see the best in people. However….. for the average French hunter, I am prepared to make an exception! They are grumpy, unpleasant, selfish and unsmiling and totally focussed on the kill. I have heard all the arguments for culling, and the necessity to limit the rabbit population, and control the wild boar community – but do they have to enjoy it so much? You are horrible, nasty men you hunters and I don’t like you at all!

The big news around the PO is that the Canigou has donned its white bonnet again! This morning, we woke up to a snow topped mountain, despite the bright sunshine and reasonable temperatures down here (18 – 20°) Beautiful – it brings a completely different colour scheme into the tableau.

Saturday 8th October
Having lived in the Pyrenees-Orientales long enough now to have experienced all the seasons at least once, I am in no doubt that for me personally, September and October beat the rest of the year hands down. This week has been absolutely perfect. A sky as blue as robin’s eggs, hot sunshine with a light breeze, cooler nights and an explosion of colour throughout the region as the vines turn to red, and wild and beautiful Autumn flowers peep out shyly from the hedgerows with a snow topped Canigou standing proud in the background.

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon on the beach in Canet. The day had all the features of a hot Summer apart from the fact that we had the whole beach to ourselves. Bisou dug holes and kicked sand in our faces without a care in the world as we ate our tuna and egg sandwiches, (purchased in soft white bread from the Intermarché and highly recommended) and listened to the tide roll in (though not sitting on the dock on the bay) How do you beat that?

All is still quiet on the melon front but thanks to a little known landscape painter and melon expert from the Highlands, I now have some sound advice on my next move “To increase your yield, use drip irrigation or a soaker hose beneath the mulch” Yes, right. Thank you. I’ll get onto that right away!

Tuesday 11th October <doc1755|right><doc1757|left>
Sunday was the Maureillas ‘vide grenier’ or car boot sale. The weather was absolutely cracking and prats de la Farga, the large ‘fete’ area just outside the village, was buzzing. Different to British car boot sales that I know in that it lasted all day and was very much a family affair for many, with catered lunch available, and various activities organised throughout the day, such as a chess competition and sardane lessons. I helped Evelyne with her ‘stall’ and we sat and drunk cold beers under a blistering sun. Yesterday, I woke up with a headache and a face like a beetroot.

Today, we went up to Molitg-les-Bains. It’s a lovely place, just next to Prades, and dominated by the large hotel and spa, La Chaine Thermale du Soleil, reputed to ease or cure digestion problems amongst other medical conditions. If you’re around Prades from April onwards, look out for the creperie restaurant ‘Les Marronniers’ in Molitg village – it’s a beautiful area for walking or just taking in the fantastic scenery.

On the way up to Prades, we passed Vinça where a forest fire last month decimated acres and acres of land. This rather poor photo, taken out of the car window, gives you some idea of the extent of the damage and you can clearly see the difference in colour between the untouched vines in the foreground and the charred hills in the distance.

Thursday 13th October
We have all heard the expression “it’s raining cats and dogs.” There are several theories about this rainy saying. It is possible that the word cat is derived from the Greek word ‘catadupe’ meaning ‘waterfall.’ Or it could be raining ‘cata doxas,’ which is Latin for ‘contrary to experience,’ or an unusual fall of rain. Whatever, it is raining. And when it rains over here, it rains elephants (elephantus) and hippos (hippopatomus). Two minutes outside and you are drenched! It’s still warm though, so you have the predicament of putting on a jacket and staying dry but sweating like a pig, or remaining sleeveless and soggy! (do pigs sweat in fact?)

Sunday 16th October
The weathermen predicted heavy rain and floods over the weekend – a sure way to stop the rain and bring out the sun! Temperatures are still around 19° and although there has been some intermittent cloud cover, the weekend weather has been mainly warm and sunny.

<doc1821|right>Yesterday, Olivier and I went to Amelie-les-Bains to try out the ‘Aqua relax’. This consists of 10 – 15 minutes in a large pool of sulphur and spa water, in which you have strong jets of water that you direct at the achiest parts of your body, followed by a mudbath (no wrestling allowed). I was rushed off my feet in the morning, between the phone, the computer and half a dozen visitors, so by the time we got to Amelie, I’d managed to pack my sports bag without any swimming things in it! Never mind – I played it cool and tried to look as if it was deliberate “I regularly go to spas without my swimming costume – it’s because I like to watch” . Nobody really believed me and those who did obviously thought I was a bit of a pervy voyeuse type of person.

<doc1819|right>A very reluctant and fed up Olivier joined the ladies (and one elderly gentleman) in the mudbath whilst I did my jounalist thing and went round asking probing questions like “Does the establishment have a diet coke machine?” In the end, he enjoyed it although he was very tired afterwards and had a slight headache. We don’t know if that was just coincidence or due to the spa water. He did however find it very relaxing – the mudbath, made up of kaolin and spa water – was particularly interesting as it was like being in space – the body is completely weightless. As with my [son at the hairdressers->May-2005#sommaire_16] several months ago, I promised my husband I would not put on the site photos of him wearing a lady’s swimming hat and covered in mud. Will the men in my family never learn!

Seriously though, the spas in the region are trying to shake off the image they have had in the past (and still have to a certain extent) of being purely medical and curative, and introduce a more recreational aproach. The above ‘treatment’ took about an hour and cost 15€ and there are other packages available. I will publish the results and details of my enquiries in [tourist info->] in the near future so keep an eye out for it. It’s a pleasant way of spending a cold or rainy day and not at all expensive.

Wednesday 19th October <doc1833|left><doc1835|right>
I have a nasty case of ‘red wine head’ today after a particularly pleasant evening with friends in Baho. The weather today is a little ‘triste’ but still very warm – 21° – and Olivier is in the garden digging holes (with a helping paw from Bisou of course.) Not just for the fun and the mud pie potential, I might add, but also so that he can pour cement into them and provide anchorage for the ‘bache’ – the Winter cover that we have invested in to keep the pool clean and safe. It has metal bars through it so that you can actually walk on it once it’s fitted. It is legally necessary to provide security for a pool. If some innocent burglar came accidentally wandering into our garden and fell into the pool and drowned due to the weight of our television and video in his swag bag, he could sue us for not protecting him from potential danger. Hhrumph!

Thursday 20th October <doc1844|right>
The weather has been beautiful today – similar to a warm, early summer day in England, and the mountains are turning to a hundred different shades of green. Olivier and I have a new game which you really must try. We go into the middle of the road, decide on a target ahead like a tree or lamp post, hold hands, close our eyes and walk forwards. The aim of the game is to stop exactly parallel to the chosen object. Quite apart from the accuracy (or should I say lack of accuracy) of estimating the distance, there are perhaps a few other points that need to be considered before embarking on this exciting pastime. Firstly, it is quite important that it is a road without traffic! Second, it’s quite difficult to walk straight with your eyes closed and third, if the dog wants to play too, tell her not to stand just in front of you! I fell over the dog and Olivier fell into the canal at the side of the road. A few cuts and bruises to report but great fun and I would definitely recommend it to anybody of unsound mind.

<doc1846|right> The icing on the cake today however had to be a trip to the garage to get a diet coke out of the fridge. Alerted to movement amongst some old bicycle chains and inner tubes in a grubby plastic bowl, the intrepid Kate went into investigation mode. Bravely pushing aside the offending items, I clearly heard a kind of burpy, windy sound issuing from the bowl. At first I thought it must be Lulu back from school, but the burpy sound changed to a throaty gurgle and stopped. Cowering in the bowl and completely terrorised by my five foot of solid(ish) muscle was a flippin’ enormous frog. The poor chap must have been trapped in the garage all day. Taking my courage into both hands…. I screamed for Olivier who came and rescued the little fella under my expert and distant supervision. What a hero!

Sunday 30th October
Today is my last day in Leeds and my first chance to check a computer. In an hour, I’ll be taking the plane at Leeds Bradford airport and heading back to Maureillas via Paris. It’s been a fabulous week – a great chance to see friends and family – but one thing sticks in my mind more than others. Traffic! More about that and a few other comparisons between French and English living on Tuesday when I arrive back.

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