Saturday 8th June
June has been on and off so far. Today it’s definitely off with heavy rain, thunder and battering winds scattered amongst calm and sunny periods. Too warm with a jumper on, too cold without one. Even moi, the eternal optimist, am feeling very slightly fed up with this temperamental, unseasonal weather.
Still, there have also been some rather lovely days, warm and sunny in the main, a taster of what we know is to come, so I will hang on a little longer before having a tantrum.
Now here’s something strange to tell. Our local cherry farmer has left trees and trees full of juicy ripe cherries unpicked. Why? There must be a marketing reason like keeping prices up or something completely beyond my very limited cherry knowledge, but it breaks my heart every morning when we walk our vine and cherry orchard circuit to see these dark red cherries just sitting there.
Of course, I admit to helping myself to a pocket or two, and to stuffing my face every morning, but there’s only so many cherries a gal can eat, tho Haribo is quite keen and will happily gnaw on a cherry in total oblivion to the fact that dogs don’t usually eat fruit. Olivier, on the other hand, doesn’t particularly like cherries in the first place, but is further hampered by his inherent honesty (a trait we don’t share where scrumping is concerned) which means that he keeps accusing me of stealing, and wants me to leave a euro or two on a rock, or hand it over when le Monsieur passes our house on the way to tend his fields. Yeah, right!
Pilates is my passion at the moment. The salle de fête of Maureillas echoes daily to the grunts of a dozen or so ladies of all shapes and sizes, who are stretched and toned to the max by the watchful Helena, a motivating hawk who doesnt allow you to get away with any half measures. Love it, and though my tummy still protrudes and my chins still dangle, they definitely feel firmer.
As the rain continues to pound on my office roof up here in the rafters, I feel so sorry for people who are just here for a week, and the outdoor restaurants and bars who are losing so much business as this weather marches on into June. The Guinguette around the lake in Saint jean Pla de Corts is one. It is run by a lovely couple, Fabien and Anicée, who have organised old French music hall entertainment several time a week at the side of the lake, and although there is now a ’salle’ for eating inside, it’s really only a place to go in summery weather. Right, going to have to turn my computer off now before the storm does it for me. Will continue with this, and bung on some photos later.
Monday 10th June
More cherries on the morning walk, and still they remain unpicked. Very juicy, very ripe, and beginning to form a blood red carpet around the trees – a great shame at any time, but particularly this year, bearing in mind the 5 euros per punnet being charged on average.
The weather continues to be lean and mean. Cloudy, stormy, chilly, peppered with hot sunny periods which lull you into a false sense of security, entice you to don shorts and skimpy vesty type attire, and then get soaked in the next downpour!
And what of the new addition to the family? Haribo has turned out to be a cheeky monkey in every sense of the word. Socks mysteriously disappear and turn up at the bottom of the drive, squeaky pigs cause turmoil and nightmares when they turn up under the pillow, and yesterday’s second hand underwear is presented proudly to politely receptive visitors. But he’s very very cute, cuddly and I’m convinced he smells of liquorice and is beginning to taste like his name.
Saturday, and sometimes Monday mornings too are doggy days when doggy daddy and hairy son head off to Laroque des Albères to school. Haribo is actually a willing pupil, loves learning (tho is quite a quick forgetter too) and his proud Daddy really enjoys their bonding sessions. Great doggy school, great doggy atmosphere, French and English speakers amongst both teachers and learners, the Canin Agility & Obedience Club is as much a social occasion for doggy mum’n dads as for the cute canines. If you enjoy a chat with other dog lovers, the welcome is endlessly warm (without the licking or the bottom sniffing for the two legged variety) and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. As much a great morning or afternoon out as a dog training session!
The sun’s out – it’s turned into a beautiful evening.
Thursday 13th June
Summer appears to have arrived all in one big lump, rather than oozing in with a slow and smooth transition from spring! Warm and sunny, endless backdrop of blue sky with emerald green mountains sketched boldly in the distance. Worth all the recent rain and storms to look out on a day like this.
Do please spare a thought for us out here in these difficult days of mop-brow temperatures, stuck next to the pool, unable to do more than add ice and lemon to our G&T or open a cold bottle of beer, obliged to swig it down in one for fear of dehydrating… Que la vie est dure!
This weekend takes place La Trobada, (Catalan for “meeting” or “reunion”), the beginning of that lovely Catalan tradition to celebrate the Summer Solstice of St Jean.
Troops of walkers and representatives of villages and towns throughout North and South Catalonia make their way along the track known as La Piste du Llech (a five hour walk), on foot, by horse, mountain bike or 4x4s, to Les Cortalets (altitude 2,150 metres), below Canigou, about a week before the solstice bonfire. With them they bring faggots of vine cuttings – symbols, like the fire itself, of “love and peace” to be deposited the following morning round the iron cross at the summit of Canigou – if their hangover allows it!
In fact, the night before, tents are pitched and a communal feast is prepared by the campers, accompanied by plenty of alcohol naturally – and who wouldn’t get carried away in the superb location, the whole of the P-O at your feet, food, music, the ‘purro’ – a sort of glass decanter with a long slim spout to pour sweet muscat down your throat and pass on to your neighbour…. What a party.
Rumour has it (rumour being one of my Catalan friends who helps to organise the event) that there may still be too much snow on the Canigou at the moment and the Trobada might have to be cancelled – but this was yesterday and the sun has beaten down with determination since then. On verra!
Anyway, the next morning,the hung over campers finish the climb to the summit with ribbons and bands in the famed Catalan colours of sang et or, (blood-red and gold) and build a huge bonfire round the ancient metal cross on the top of the mountain. Next week the fire will be lit with a flaming torch, kept throughout the year at the Castillet in Perpignan, and then carried down by relay runners to light all the fires in the villages below. And that’s when all the village kids start jumping over the bonfire – a tradition that would have the elf and safety chappies in Britain turning over in their offices!
Lulu had a go too about 10 years ago, wearing his nylon T shirt and nylon trainers, and we narrowly missed having roasted sweatbreads for dinner! . Nobody seems the slightest bit anxious, and firemen stand around the edges to put the children out if need be! Terrifies me!
Thursday 20th June
The weather is deceptively changeable, a teenager’s temperament with mood swings which pendulum from one extreme to another. Yesterday’s ginormous hailstones were followed by twenty minutes of hot sunshine, a brief rain shower and a warm, dry and heavy evening. The night redeemed itself by freshening up and delivering a pleasant nights sleep with the window open, but it’s difficult to decide in advance what to wear, plan BBQs, bike rides, walks and beach restaurant sorties….the important decisions one has to make in life!
Our poor boat sits waiting for us in Saint Cyprien, after being hauled out, descaled, and serviced, preceding a bill to practically match the value of the boat – and we haven’t been out on it once yet. I admit to rather liking this weather, as I don’t have to coat myself in cream every time I move, but it does rather defeat the very expensive object of keeping a boat if you can never go out on it!
We have some dear friends down from central France at the moment, so we did sit and have an apero on the pontoon, but it’s not quite the same as heading out to sea!
I spent Sunday morning in Céret hospital ’urgences’ when Lucien woke up sick, unable to swallow, with difficulty breathing. As Olivier was working (yes, iniquitous I hear you say… working on a Sunday morning), and Lulu was making it into a drama to shame the skills of the Royal Shakespeare Company, it was Mum to the rescue. Friends coming round for lunch were unceremoniously dumped, all plans for the day rearranged, and the morning spent sitting on a hard chair in a waiting room. By the time we saw the emergency doc, the little b-gger was feeling much better, had the strength to scrabble in my bag for change for the drinks machine, send a couple of texts….. It turned out that he had had an allergic reaction to something, still unidentified, which had doubled the size of the dangly thingy that hangs down the back of your throat (the uvula?) so he was pumped full of cortisone and anti histamine and sent packing. He slept peacefully for the rest of the day and went out in the evening as if nothing had happened. Kids!