Sunday June 1st 2014

I’m back! So much goes on around here that I just cant keep it all to myself. Le ’usband, when tested at the end of one of my excited chatterings, is often found to be sadly lacking in the ’concentrating-on-what-Kate-is-saying’ department. In fact, no matter how fascinating it has been, in my not-the-slightest-bit-humble opinion, he is often found to be unable to repeat back details or answer the most basic questions such as ’What did I just say?’

After 7 years of ’My Life in the P-O’, I suddenly stopped, mainly because I felt I had become boring, repetitive, and all about me, instead of my original object, the P-O.  I realised that I was actually racking my brains to find something fresh and new to write about. It was time to stop.

To make matters even worse, I invested in a new, all singing, all dancing camera, with zoom, tripod and loads of different buttons on it, which I have no idea how to use! It’s too big to go in a pocket or a bag, too chunky to carry comfortably over my shoulder, and too complicated for my flea brain – so I stopped taking photos. My excellent, Iphone-point-and-shoot has changed all that, and I’m back.)

However, all this must have caused a big build up, a volcano waiting to erupt in my fluffy head, and I’m now ready to blow my top and regale you with more years of irrelevant, irreverent and mainly useless information about life in the Pyrenees Orientales. Yeeeeee ha! Let’s get going!

So first of all, the weather. There’s a bit of a wind keeping the temperatures down but our P-O world has turned blue and green again, after several grey and dribbly days.

I love the contrasts of the dark green mountains against a Wedgewood blue sky. I never get tired of looking out at them.
The smells and sounds of a sunny morning are intoxicating – this is what I wake up to! How could I possibly feel any other way?

And for this, my first post in a while, I must tell of the Cherry Festival in Céret, the meeting point over the past years with many old friends, and introduction point for many new.

Today is the second day of the festival. A tradition we developed over several years on this day was to meet at the Pablo bar and sit and watch the bands, drink beer, nibble on cherries….

Many of those friends have moved on, or away but I still raise a glass to great times, on cherry fest weekend – but without overdosing on the cherries as I did when we first came to live amidst the vines and cherry orchards, as you can read at the bottom of the page!

Monday 2nd June

Woke up to a fabulous blue sky this morning, but light grey clouds have turned it into a pastel wash of white, blue and grey – but it’s still bright and warm, with a light wind keeping the temperatures in the low 20s.

The wild flowers are superb, blood red poppies and sunshine daisies tossing their pretty heads in the breeze, amidst riots of conflower blue, deep purple, cinammon – so many colours, so many flowers I can’t give a name to….

The summer P-O Life has just gone to the printers and I’m waiting for the call to go and collect it once it rolls off the press. After nearly 10 years, I still get excited on the drive to Mas Guerido to pick up the first load of boxes for a new edition.

And talking of Mas Guerido, now THERE’S a place to visit if you love shopping but you hate crowds. Every time I go, it amazes me how few people there are in the wide selection of shops, how easy parking is, even in high season…. How do they survive?

I’ve never see more than a couple of cars outside each shop – and there is furniture, fashion and flowers, bedding and building, computer repairs, vehicle spares, moggy and doggy delights, beer and whisky shops, five continents of herbs, spices, international food and drink, office supplies, lighting and furniture – but hardly a soul in sight when I’m there! Maybe they see me coming!

Don’t forget that June 8th and 9th are Pentecôte – yet another bank holiday where many small businesses make it a long weekend!

This religious tradition takes place 50 days after Easter, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit amongst Jesus’s Apostles. The word ’Pentecôte’, originates from ’pentêkostê’ meaning ’fiftieth’ (day) in Greek.

Pentecôte was a public holiday until 2005, when the French government, led by President Chirac, decided to cancel it! After the heat wave of 2003, which caused the deaths of an estimated 13,000 elderly people in France, the government wanted to use this day to raise funds to better support the elderly and disabled. They called it ’Solidarity Day’ (Journée de Solidarité), and asked workers to work this day for no extra pay.

But this is France! After several years of demonstrations, with the majority of the French work force resolutely sticking to their guns and remaining at home, Lundi de Pentecôte was reinstated as a public holiday in 2008.

Incidentally, did you know that ’Whit Monday’, comes from the white robes worn on Pentecost by those who have been newly baptized?

Friday June 6th

snake in the grass

OMG, mon Dieu! Nake! THIS crept up on me yesterday as I was walking the dogs. Sneaky beastie, so well camouflaged that I could hardly see it!

Well, it didn’t so much creep, as lie there looking slimy and smelly, given that it was an ex nake, deceased, slithered off this mortal coil, gone to meet its (s)maker…..but its potential for hissiness and general slitheration up one’s trouser leg left me feeling very uncomfortable.

My friend Linda recently contributed a rather smart snake article to the summer edition of P-O Life – and I read and believed.

But please, slither in someone else’s garden, not mine. Linda says that snakes get a bad press. Well, this one has had quite a good press – from a car tyre. Ooooooooh, that is soooooo mean. I love animals; but snakes just don’t do it for me.

She also says that the majority of snakes in the P-O are completely harmless. She even describes them as ’shy, retiring creatures, who would prefer to back off and hide should they come face to face with you’.

The non-venomous Ladder snake (couleuvre à échelons) – common here – can gulp down rabbits and birds.

She even makes them sound quite cute and cuddly when she describes them as ’great bluffers who will wag their heads, hiss and ‘yawn’ at their attacker. But it’s all show she says. In fact, some don’t even have fangs.’ Who wants to call their bluff though? Not me, that’s for sure.

She does tell us to watch out however for the ’Vipère aspic’ (adder), which is small (70 cm), with ’those unmistakeable comic book zig zag makings’ but she says it isn’t aggressive and won’t attack, unless trodden on!

© Benny Trapp

Right, I’m on me bike everywhere from now on!

If you are bitten, Linda’s advice is…… Do not suck out the wound, or apply a tourniquet. Keep the patient quiet and still, so that the venom is not moved quickly around the body. Call SAMU, (15) or if the person must be moved, do it carefully and slowly. Try to get a good description of the snake, because the chances are it wasn’t venomous after all.

Tuesday 10th

Summer has snook up and taken us by surprise, leaping from a pleasant 21° to a heavy 34° (according to the thermometer over the chemist shop in Maureillas) in the space of 24 hours. I think I love it – but I’m not quite sure cos the pool isn’t quite warm enough to jump into without clenched buttocks, and Olivier hasn’t been round and changed the air con units from winter to summer yet as we haven’t really needed them so far.

But just take a look at the field along the road from us. I may seem a little obsessed with wild flowers at the moment, but that is because a) I have none of my old, wild or tamed in our wilderness of a garden and b) they are soooooooo beautiful.

poppies 1

Friday 13th

Flippin’ ’eck, it’s ’ot!

Tuesday 24th

Cloudy sky

So here I sit, chewing on ’soft eating, strawberry flavour liquorice’ which the lady in the shop knowledgeably informed me, has practically no calories to speak of and can therefore be eaten at will – and it’s raining.

The thermometer is registering a heavy 31° despite a mean looking sky which looks as if it’s eaten too many marshmallows, and a very distant rumble of thunder announces a storm to come.

But I love it! I love all the seasons for their differences. How could we possibly enjoy the sunshine if we never saw the rain?

St Cyp

Biked to St Cyprien this weekend along the ’piste cyclable’, off road psychopath which goes from right outside my front door onto the beach at Argelès. Can’t ask better than that can I now?

Sometimes Haribo, my hairy hound-dog runs with me, but he’s not coping very well with the heat – a mere 30° – so he and his sister Poppet came along with Olivier in the car and had an hour at the beach, digging up everything that moved and some pretty disgusting things that don’t move! More about the in-house dog situation another time!

Did you know that the fenced off areas between the road and the beach in Canet and St Cyprien are calles ’ganivelles’ or ’barrieres girondines’? These fences are usually made of vertical strips of wood, separated by a space, and held together with metal wire and are there to protect the dunes from erosion. Another fascinating and useless snippet from moi eh?


peach trees

Anyway, back to the bike ride, which was superb as always, passing through the outskirts of Le Boulou, over the bridge and ever onwards and flatwards, through vines and orchards – but what shocked me a little was passing through a couple of peach orchards where hundreds of ripe red peaches just lay unpicked on the ground.

I don’t know if you can see them in this photo, but the trees are heavy with fruit and a carpet of rotten peaches lie on the ground. What a waste when half the world is starving to death.

And kind of sad, because the orchards had obviously been tended much of the year, but the peaches have just been left to rot on the trees. Why I wonder?

And another important question. On this beautiful sunny day, resplendant in a little pair of cycling shorts, can anybody tell me why my legs remain stubbornly white and hairy, no matter how much exposure they get to the sun?? They used to turn golden brown when I was a puppy, but now that I’m an old dog, no amount of cycling, boating or running seems to have any effect on the short stout stumpy little blighters.

On the positive side, I do seem to have finally mastered the delicate art of projectile spitting from the saddle, and no longer arrive home with spaggy spittle stains down my left arm and thigh and squashed flies stuck to my teeth! What a champion gobber I am becoming – Dad would be so proud!

May 2005

Aïe aïe aïe! I’m cherry-bound, from naughtily helping myself to a handful every time I take a walk through the cherry orchards, and am getting a bit bored with cherry pie, cherry tart, cherries in liqueur, cherry pasty, cherries on toast, baked cherries, fried cherries, grilled cherries, cherry paté, cherry sundae, cherry quiche, cherries with spam…….

I woke up to a lovely surprise this morning. One of the local cherry farmers who we know vaguely and who always stops to say hello very kindly brought round a bucket of cherries. What a nice man!!!…….cherry rissoles, cherry pizza, coq aux cherries, cherry burgers, cherry stew, cherries à la king…..!

Tonight we went round to the other neighbours for the ’apero’ They brought out Catalan beer for us to try with an alcohol percentage of 13! When we left, they very kindly gave a a large carrier bag of cherries………cherry casserole, cherry fritters, cherry purée, barbequed cherries, braised cherries, steamed cherries….

Today is ’la fete de la cerise’ in Céret and there are giant plastic cherries adorning the streets. To start off this festival day, another neighbour obviously felt that I was in need of extra vitamins due to my short stature, and very kindly presented me with a large basket of cherries….. and Brigitte next door brought me round some of her home made cherry jam.

Fête de la Cérise, Céret. Cherry Festival

The Fete de la cerise, therefore, was my worst nightmare – cherries everywhere! To add insult to injury, we came home from the festival last night to find a plastic bag and a colander full of cherries on the doorstep, left by an anonymous donor! Rest assured! I have several suspects and will be conducting a full enquiry…….cherry jams, cherry pancakes, cherry trees, cherry cakes…….. uh oh, here I go again! The festival continues today but I really can’t face another day surrounded by the dastardly red terror. Can you freeze cherries? Does anybody know? (Does anybody care?)

The phantom cherryman has struck again! I’ve narrowed it down to an Intermarché shopper due to the plastic bag and will shortly be carrying out handwriting analysis on the jam label: I will leave no (cherry) stone unturned!

Fruit and veg market

The shops are suddenly full of melons and peaches and exotic fruit, sandals and shorts and suntan cream and the café ’trottoirs’ feature a melange of nationalities, smiling and smoking, drinking and chatting, or just sitting and watching the world go by. There’s a warmth in the air this is not purely meteorological….and on that long and possibly non-existent word, I take my leave.

PS Supermarkets are now allowed to open on Sunday mornings in France. Great – I think – tho I can also see the point of view of those who believe the Sunday should remain a day of rest, not from any religious stand point but simply from a ’do we need to go shopping every day?’ position.

Back soon with more rubble for you to sift through!


Leave a Comment