It’s been a weird and wonderful weather week so far – very warm, mid to high 20s most of the time, but moody, changing suddenly at shutter snapper speed from sunshine to storms, dry to rain. Some incredible lightening scenes have flashed and banged across inky night sky…..but it’s all good. The rain brings much needed water to the land, the sunshine brings out shiny happy people, and a mix of weathers keeps us on our wardrobe toes so that we are constantly reassessing our options. Posh high heels in a downpour, when you might suddenly have to make a run for it? Hmmmm, maybe not. A little strappy vest…..but do I need a jacket if it suddenly dives from sun to storm? The predicaments that we face on a day to day basis eh? May the biggest problem of the day always be what to wear to suit the weather!
And of course, a bit of rain in June just serves to remind us of the amazing autumns we have with September a delightful extention of the summer season, and October and November rarely trailing far behind.
Now here’s a bottle of wine which has impressed my son Lulu. He insists it’s one of the best wines he’s tasted, bearing in mind that at 21 it’s also one of the first wines he’s tasted, his misspent youth having so far covered much beer swigging, and a fair amount of whisky swigging too, but limited, probably non existent wine swigging. Anyway,sophistication seems to have finally arrived with maturity and he bought his first few bottles of ’Vin de Merde’ this week from Carrefour, Céret – and boy, is he impressed. The wine claims to be ’Le vin des Philosophes’ and states that ’le pire cache le meilleur’ (the worst hides the best). If I hadn’t drunk my other silly named wines, Arse, Fat Bastard, ….this would have been a good time to put them all together for a photo….. but I have, and no doubt Le Vin de Merde will quickly join the others. So immature, so British. Happy to be both!
And here I am, sitting on the top step in front of my office door, a dog sandwich, as Haribo and Poppet, my two hairy babies squeeze up against me on either side, Pic Neoulous before me, swirled in low cloud, an occasional drop of rain sizzling and drying as it falls upon my skin…..and just feeling very lucky! Lucky to be here, lucky to be me, lucky to be surrounded by all I have, animal, vegetable and mineral. Have a lovely, lovely day too.
Tuesday 9th July
Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather…..
Oooooo, stormy weather…..we have had it…lots of!
And actually, did you know that the original song was written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, first sang by Ethel Waters at The Cotton Club night club in Harlem in 1933 and has been performed over the years by Frank Sinatra, Clodagh Rodgers, Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. Fascinating stuff. Apparently the original handwritten lyrics were featured on the Antiques Roadshow in America and estimated at $50,000 and $100,000, crossings out, corrections and all!! I’ve got loads of bits of paper strewn around my desk with with mistakes, crossings out….might keep them in case I ever become famous!!
Which brings us not-so-neatly back to the weather. Wow! Love weather extremes as long as I have the choice not to actually be caught in the middle of it – which I was yesterday morning around 7 am! You know when you get to that point out on a long walk where you’re at exactly equal distance from the house, so it would take an hour to turn back and and hour to carry on? Well, there we were, exactly at that point, when fist size hail started to batter our delicate, uncovered heads and bodies. OK, maybe not fist size, but big buggers! Mix in gusting winds and torrential rain and I don’t think I have ever been soaked through to my very innards to that extent. So glad that we have waterproof skin as would hate to flood liver and kidneys with anything else but good healthy alcohol!
Temperatures dropped from high 30s to mid teens. Funny how heavy rain here makes all the buildings look grubby and miserable too. Cheer up everything and everybody. The sun is back out today, though as I write a cheeky little wind is beginning to irritate the trees. On verra!
Getting in and out of the P-O is becoming more and more problematic as the airlines chop and change their minds. For the moment, I can fly from Girona to Leeds, as I live on the Spanish border, and Girona only takes about 45 minutes on the motorway – but that stops in September. I can also fly from Montpellier to Leeds – a two hour drive so very much the second option – but that stops in September too! Plenty of flights from Barcelona but hate the drive there, and it bugs me to drive that far south in order to fly north! So illogical.
Went back to see Le Papa and take him out for Father’s Day lunch. Olivier was working, so I left him dog sitting and we had a lovely father-daughter weekend. Cheeky monkey stood me up on Monday to go out with his friends! So glad he is well and has built himself up a great buddy network, meaning that he is out for dinner most nights, walking in the morning, reading and discussion groups in the afternoon…. Love you Pop.
Oh, and while I’m having a moan about hail and flights, I must add the Céret Intermarché onto my moany list. It has a young, ’dynamic’ directeur, who is clearly trying to squeeze every last drop of profit out of the shop by selling poor quality fruit and vegetables, and fresh products. I have rarely had a net of onions where half or more haven’t been rotten, or a bunch of bananas that haven’t been black inside. Half a kilo of moules were inedible and some ham went off far too quickly for my liking. Course, I know I can choose to shop elsewhere, and I do like to support the small shops – but I like to have the option. Tant pis. It might just have been a bad 9 or 10 times I suppose!
Saturday 12th July
The pizzeria took her to court, saying that the blog has circulated amongst local and tourists and put potential clients off the restaurant.
Internet laws on what is acceptable and what is libel are very unclear? Personally, I would be against the above ruling, as blogs and online restaurant reviews like Tripadvisor go a long way towards ensuring that hotels and restaurants maintain a certain standard. You read that they have dirty loos, you wonder if the kitchen is dirty too. You read that the general standard is poor, and who knows? Maybe an online review on a good and honest website, seen by people all over the world, might kick them into gear to make improvements – or get out!
On the other hand, online blogs and forums can often be nests of nastiness, where some will criticize just to stir, take delight in causing misfortune or generating more criticism, and others might take revenge on a perceived slight like a bill added up wrongly, an unsmiling waiter, a personal dislike of the owner…..It’s easy to see both sides of the coin – so I will be very careful to only say nice things about everything and everybody in the future!
Weather today is kind of OK. Warm… sunny periods….plenty of cloud, and varying degrees of wind which changes speed from minute to minute, so that you can be tottering casually along on a warm, gentle breeze, to be suddely swept into the pool by a massive gust! Yes, but it won’t happen a second time – and I do like to think that it was the pressure of the big, bad gust against the slender willowness of my delicate boned little body that caused me to be swept away last night, and NOT an overdoing of the apero! My new drink by the way…gin, (lots of) juice of at least one large freshly squeezed orange, topped up with perrier and ice. Gin can be replace with vodka of course – or anything really!
Tuesday 22nd July
Interesting weather day today – a bit like sticking your body in front of a warm hairdryer….rather pleasant but I wouldn’t like to do it for too long. On the positive side, you can have big time, totally free exfoliation by just sitting on the beach, as the sand whips off a layer of skin or two – so it’s not all bad!
The light is still fabulous, the cloudless sky a wedgewood blue – a little bit of wind keeps us fresh and on our toes – another beautiful day in the P-O.
The past couple of weeks have been quite dramatic and very sad. We rushed Olivier’s Dad into hospital in Céret as he appeared to be dehydrated, but otherwise pretty normal, considering that he had Parkinson’s and his quality of life has been very limited over the past couple of years. He died on Wedndesay. A lovely, gentle man. We will all miss you Papie.
Here he is only a couple of weeks ago, having a swim with Olivier, laughing at little Poppet who dive bombs unsuspecting victims in the pool.
Incomprehensible, the circle of life. We’re born – we die….and what we do in between is all that we have. It’s so important to squeeze every drop out of every day, drop old grudges, tell friends and family we love them.
Friday 25th July
Where does the time go? It’s nearly August and I haven’t even digested July yet!
Strange, sunny-stormy weather today – very warm, with sudden, short, heavy rainstorms, which are great for the grass and plants, as well as small middle-aged ladies stuck behind their computers trying to catch up with P-O Life!
We did a couple of ’Out for the Day’ sorties at the beginning of the week, looking for adventure. On the first one we found a fabulous hidden rock pool and waterfall near Taulis but you’ll have to wait and read all about it in the next P-O Life to find out where it is! Cool
On the second we discovered the pretty little village of Montbolo near Amélie-les-Bains – amazing views, large fortified XII century church,’jardin botanique’ and a fascinating ’parcours géologique’ where the different stones mined in the Canigou are on exterior display, with plaques to explain what they are and where they come from – a mineral fan’s paradise.
We had a drink at the pleasant little restaurant, a Bistot du Pays with its ’point d’art’ and traditional Catalan cuisine (which smelt great – potential for a delicious lunch or dinner I would guess, tho it was 17h so no food being served). Turned out that the owner, French but a fluent English speaker, is a P-O Life reader, which of course had me spreading my peacock feathers and doing a little dance. I still see P-O Life as a bit of a cobbled together botch-up, school mag style, so when people tell me they enjoy it, I think I must visibly swell with pride! Being as bits of me already look somewhat swollen, I really mustn’t inflate more or I will take off!!
Anyway, back to the point. We drove up through Montbolo, about a ten minute drive along a pitted track which would have been better suited to a 4×4, (tho our brilliant driver negotiated the bumps like a pro) parked, pic-nicked and headed up, up, up to the old station of Batère with its abandoned buildings and enormous views.
Very humbling to think that this was all here before us, will be here long after us, is ever-changing yet never-changing – the kind of scenery that makes you feel very small and insignificant in the great scheme of things.
It wasn’t a clear day, but we could still see down to the sea, the Corbières, Força Réal perched on a far away peak…. It was like looking down on a Google Earth map, but with no zoom in button. Amazing. Fantastic day with great friends.
This Sunday 30th July is the Rodella procession. The origin of this rather fascinating pagan parade goes back to 1465 when a Montbolo shepherd called Noguer de GASNACH had a vision at the Col de la Porta (Col de Formentere), up near where we walked.
In this vision, two witches brought bad weather to Montbolo, with dastardly intention of destroying the crops. Arriving at the Col, they were unable to pass as the two saints, Abdon and Sennan stood before them and blocked their way.
They were therefore obliged to take away the bad weather, ride off on their broomsticks (added by me for poetic licence but not part of the REAL story in that nobody else has mentioned broomsticks – they could have been on foot…or donkey or horseback maybe?) and destroy somebody else’s crops!. Naturally, the villagers were very grateful to the two saints and decided to make that day a yearly celebration, a thank you to Saint Abdon and Saint Sennen for saving their livliehoods.
Since then, every 30th of July the inhabitants get together and carry a coil of bees wax called the Rodella, fixed to a cross, an offering to the Saintly protectors of Arles-sur-Tech.
The procession leaves on foot from the church of Montbolo at 7h, heading down forest paths towards Arles-sur-Tech. Catalans in traditional local dress, carrying the relics, meet up with the Rodella around mid morning in Arles and the whole procession continues on to the église Sainte Marie d’Arles where they kneel, embrace the saintly relics, and attend Mass.
Holy water is distributed from the Saintly Tomb and you can buy mini Rodellas which give you the power to repel storms! Well timed Montbolo. Chuck a couple down our way please.