Thursday 4th September
Que la vie est belle!
Thank you, oh ‘great inventor of loads of stuff’, for a) my friend Dave the miracle photographer, b) the photo shop ‘nip’n tuck’ programme, and c) the colour black, which hides such a multitude of sins

Weather still beautiful which boosted me to put on the only photo of me that I have in my repertoire, where my chins aren’t heading south with the rest of ‘the body’! At a little under five foot, it doesn’t have a long way to go before it hits the ground!

Saturday 6th September
I’m not speaking to my husband – he’s a bad, bad man! We decided to make a bouillabaisse tonight – the famous seafood stew from Provence, made with an assortment of fish such a rascasse, lotte (monkfish) and shellfish, onions, tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, garlic……. Oh yummy! Anyway, out shopping for the ingredients I made the mistake of taking my eye off him for a couple of minutes whilst I browsed the saucisson and stinky cheese counter – and would you believe it, on the way home I noticed that one of the Leclerc carrier bags was behaving in a very disorderly fashion!!

In fact, Olivier has bought half a dozen crabs to add a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the dish AND THEY WERE STILL ALIVE! I am a hypocrite but not a murderer! I will eat most meat, fish and vegetables (apart from innards and sheeps testicles) as long as they are already dead and not resembling the original living breathing organism too much, but the idea of dropping live crabs into boiling water just horrifies me.

What a painful way to die! I have therefore put my foot down as a woman of principal and refused to eat the bouillabaisse but oh my! It smells SOOOOOO good! Olivier and Lulu are sitting at the table slurping away noisily and I am sitting in front of my computer sulking!

Just peeped in and took a photo of the murdered crabs sitting in the dish (and grabbed a quick moule while no one was looking) but the murderer and his accessory to the facts are both finding the whole thing very amusing. Just you wait boys until the next time you’re walking along the beach and a big red claw picks you up by your head and drops you into the sea! You’ll be sorry then!

Tuesday 16th September
September is the most fantastic month of the year here in the P-O – and I am unanimous in that. Evenings are still fairly warm and balmy but growing cooler, nights are clear and star studded, early mornings are crisp and quickly melt away into warm bright sunshine, azure blue skies and a great feeling of well being and good fortune. I completely missed a week of My Life in the P-O, as P-O Life has taken every waking (and many sleeping) moments, but it’s just about ready and going off to the printer in Mas Guerido at the end of the week.

Last week we went on a superb walk around Cap Bear. We parked just outside Port Vendres, on the Banyuls side, heading towards the Poisson Rouge, and walked up towards the lighthouse where we took the Sentier Littoral. This took us along the cliffs as far as the ‘anse de Paulilles’ another poignant reminder of the history of the region.

Closed off at the back by a wall built by the Germans in 1943 to try to foil an allied landing, it was also here, in 1875 that Alfred Nobel set up the first nitro-glycerine and explosives factory in France. In 1998, the site was acquired by the Conservatoire du Littoral (the coastline conservation society) and the remains of the factory were cleaned up.

A car park was also built on site and work has been completed recently on a workshop for the restoration of catalan ’barques’ (fishing boats) and a museum in honour of Nobel and his era. Creeks and rocky promontories abound on this walk – the water is crystal clear, a kaleidoscope of mesmerising transparent blues and hypnotic pale greens that make you want to hold your breath, quote poetry……

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
I left my shoes and socks there and I wonder if they’re dry (with apologies to John Masefield) Here’s the rest…..

……..And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,>
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

As you arrive at the anse de Paulilles, there is a cross with flowers on the cliffside, in remembrance of a young fireman. Although the circumstances of his death are not explained in the tear jerking poem that accompanies the memorial, it is clear from the second poem that it is written by the person to whom he donated his heart in death. The fragility of life is never more sharply present than looking out over the ocean.
Leaving the Paullilles beach, which was quite crowded compared to the rest of the walk, probably because there is easy access to cars from the Port Vendres – Banyuls road, we crossed the road towards Cosprons and trundled back through the vines to Port Vendres, a fabulous walk which I will put in detail in a future P-O Life. The whole thing probably took us about six hours including a dip, a lunch stop and several breath catching pauses, as there are parts which are quite steep though never difficult.

I really would recommend it for its sheer, peaceful beauty – near deserted creeks, even in early September, which just beg you to swim and picnic – but it’s a must to do a weather check as when the Tramontane rears its tousled head, I don’t think it would be a good place to be!

This weekend we went rafting with a group of friends, as recommended  in my very own baby, P-O Life.

Based at Axat, a few kilometres from Quillan, this really is a must for those of you with a sporty streak, or who simply enjoy a bit of great fun!!

What could be more exciting on a summer’s day than hurtling down a rushing river on a raft? All roads leading to “Roc Aqua” are a delight to drive. Whether the D117 from Estagel towards Quillan or from Prades to Mosset and over the Col de Jau to Axat, either way the countryside through which you pass is dramatic and grand. Arriving at the roundabout of the bears, at the junction of the D117 and D118, continue towards Quillan . Almost immediately on your left is a restaurant.

Take the next left and you will see Roc Aqua. There you will be kitted out in wet suits, life jackets and helmets till you resemble a team of Buzz Lightyears. You will be driven to a launch pad, given instructions and then you’re off: 8 to a raft, 2 to a hotdog. 1 to a hydrospeed.

Swish through rapids, catch your breath in cool pools, race through narrow gorges, under low growing trees; swirl through Axat, round the bear’s roundabout and finally, after St Martin de Lys, swim to shore. Your exhilarating, exciting whirling watery ride down the Aude is over.<br>
All the guides and instructors are passionate about their work and the beautiful environment in which they operate. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Ring 06240380 or 0468057212 and catch some!”

Sunday 21st September
Not a cloud in the sky on this perfect late September day, marred only by the fact that I’ve just caught the ‘Hairy One’ standing on the barbecue giving it a thorough licking! Pardon? Did I just hear you say that you were unable to come to dinner round here this weekend after all due to a sudden pressing engagement? Oh, what a shame!
I must admit that since she was crowned a diabetic by the vets at Le Boulou, she has been VERY spoilt and got away with things that she would have been in big trouble for before she was ‘poorly’ (People who know me well are shaking their heads and saying “Rubbish, she’s always been spoilt”. Well, maybe a little!!)

The October edition of P-O Life is finished, at the printers in Mas Guerido, and should be out by the end of the week. I’ve had to turn down a fair bit of advertising this issue as I feel that the balance of adverts compared to interesting reading material can too easily be compromised and making a profit has to come second to actually producing something that is enjoyable to read. If I had wanted to make loads of money, I would have stayed in Leeds and carried on teaching (Well, loads may be a SLIGHT exaggeration, but I certainly never went ‘without’)

We finished the week with a rather nice, and very relaxed evening out with friends at the restaurant in Rivesaltes that John reviewed in P-O Life last year. Lovely decor, very Catalan in style, warm atmosphere – can’t remember its name at the moment but it’s on the roundabout of the Rivesaltes Intermarché – and decent grub. Life is SOOOO good!

Tuesday 30th September
Just take a look at where I live? Isn’t it beautiful? Aren’t I lucky? Every morning I wake up and marvel at the vineyards that surround me – line after line of juicy green and black grape vines standing to attention in incredible symmetry against a sparkling blue sky and the sweet sticky smell so intoxicating at this time of year wherever I walk – but not a seedless grape in sight! I don’t understand it – it is SO thoughtless and unreasonable! I can understand the lack of marmite, and even the tendency to only sell flakes, crunchies and twirls in special segregated sections of large supermarkets – but to leave the seeds in the grapes is quite simply unforgivable!! Who should I see about this? It really does need addressing!

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