So far, Jo had figured a great deal in our Ceret story. In the early days, when we couldn’t speak the language and hadn’t a clue how things worked, she’d gone to extraordinary lengths to help us and along the way we’d become firm friends. I thought long and hard about including this part of what happened to her in this blog, but came to the conclusion that she would have preferred to have had her story told. I hope that it will be taken in the spirit in which it is written, a homage to a dear friend.

The affair between the elegant girl from Tallinn and Estonian Eric had, unsurprisingly, come to naught and the love-less, opera-singing soldier man continued to appear at odd intervals at Arthur and Jo’s house to dig out the odd tree root or two.

The day arrived and a group of well-coiffured ladies in their sixties and seventies climbed out of their hire cars. Each had a suitcase large and heavy enough to contain a dead body. After hubby and I had lugged these monstrosities upstairs we welcomed their owners with nibbles and wine and I thought I would take the opportunity to explain a little about Mas Pallagourdi and the area.

As I’ve described in previous blogs, hubby and I arrived in Ceret with hazy, idealistic visions of what we intended to achieve with our large, rambling house and its seven acres of land. In those early days, the ideas flew thick and fast: a straw bale building, a yurt, solar generation of electricity, a windmill, recycling of the grey water. As well as restoring the house and cutting down the thickets of brambles, there was a lot on hubby’s list.

Bill was anxious to fence the land so that we could have animals. After all, this was one of the main reasons for us moving to France and buying a place with six acres. The vague wave of the arm and words of the previous owner, “it’s over there somewhere” had not really helped to clarify where the boundary actually was. And we were far too scared to ask the neighbours who had been watching our every move through binoculars.

This is the second instalment of the history of our farmhouse home in the hills above Ceret.

I was very lucky to meet Jaume Bertran. My french teacher also works as a carer. When she arrived to give me my french lesson recently she remarked that she had a new client and that he had told her that he knew Mas Pallagourdi very well. When she pressed him for more details he told her that he had lived at our house as a child. It was this, in fact, that spurred me on to discover more about the history of our house, and I asked her to set up a meeting.

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