The fête de St Mont

Twas the fête de St Mont,
And all through the region,
In buses and cars,
Folks arrived by the legion.

There was music and theatre,
And of course, wine to taste,
To be bought by the bottle,
Or cheaper, the case.

While we lunched on foie gras,
A group sang some songs,
Not any old singers,
But St Mont vignerons.

Ok, I can’t get my head round any more verse today, so that’ll have to do.

On Saturday we went to St Mont, one of several villages where the St Mont wine is produced, all of which celebrate this festival over the whole weekend.

There was a play in the grounds of the château, before the ceremonial piercing of the first barrel of last year’s wine, then lunch in the village hall. We wandered around the market that filled the centre of the village, selling all sorts of artisanal produce, from Gascon berets to fresh farm cheeses, from home made brioche to wooden chopping boards and pottery.

Then it was down to the serious business of wine tasting and buying; on arrival, you can buy a wine glass that sits neatly in a holder on a cord round your neck; Nick buys a new one each year as he always loses the cord. The wine tasted, bought and stashed in the car, we decided to head home, passing the policeman breathalysing drivers at the edge of the village. Good idea, I bet he caught plenty.

On Sunday we went to see Didier demonstrating the art of barrel making where he works in Plaisance. It was fascinating to see the different stages of the process, and how they use water and fire, but the photos probably show it better than I can explain it.

All sorts of stuff

It’s been a very busy few weeks; it was time to buy and preserve ducks for the next year and a friend knows of a good organic supplier, so Nick went off with Maria and Daniel to collect them. He arrived home with, not only ducks, but also organic roasted peanuts and a huge bag of lentils. The next couple of days were spent in the arriere cuisine, cooking, freezing and bottling various bits of duck.

Spring, it’s rumoured, is on its way and it’s time to start thinking about the garden again. It hardly seems any time at all since we were bottling and freezing last year’s produce, but we need to plant tomatoes, peppers, chillies, all sorts of things, to give them a good start; so Nick built a little greenhouse for them out of old windows and we spent an afternoon planting.

When Kieran was over last week, he and Nick got started on the kitchen for the new house; we bought it over two years ago and couldn’t remember what it was like, but were relieved to find that we still like it. I’d completely forgotten the handles – they’re lovely! Nick’s spent a day changing the bits on the cooker to take butane instead of town gas.

In the midst of all this activity came St. Patrick’s day; we were booked to play near Tarbes last Saturday, so arrived to start setting up at 5pm. We ate with the organisers, then started to play; there were only about twenty people in at the start, but then they began to pour in, till the room was full to bursting. Most people joined in the dancing; there was a really great atmosphere and everyone seemend to enjoy it. We were meant to finish at midnight, but ended up playing till half past, so by the time we’d dismantled everything and got home it was after 3am. Tonight we’re playing at a bar/restaurant in Nogaro, so it shouldn’t be as late. I was quite relieved when tomorrow’s gig didn’t materialise, due to lack of communication; it’s been quite a heavy week anyway.

Today was “big haircut” day; the tilleul tree near the house had got way too big, so Hervé and his son, a tree surgeon, came to trim it. Hervé and Nick have spent hours tidying up the trimmings, but there’s still a way to go; but it will be a lot better once it grows a few leaves.

Well, that’s it for now folks, better get ready for tomight’s gig.

Pendant les semaines dernieres , on a était très occupé. on a fait des confits de canards, Nick a construit une petite serre pour les graines qu’on a planté, fait des anciennes fenetres et on a fait tailler le grand tilleul a coté de la maison. Il et Kieran ont commencé construire la cuisine dans la nouvelle maison; on l’a acheté il y a deux ans, donc j’etais contente que je l’aime toujours!

Notre groupe a joué pres de Tarbes samedi dernier, pour la fete de St. Patrick; c’etait une soirée superbe, ou presque tout le monde a dancé et on est rentré apres 3 heures du matin. On joue à Nogaro ce soir, donc je crois qu’on rentrera plus tot (j’espere).

A quick update

We saw the surgeon yesterday; he’s delighted with the progress Nick’s making as far as his shoulder’s concerned and was almost jumping for joy when he told us how good it is to work with someone so fit, sporty and motivated. He was in no hurry to get rid of us as we discussed topics from the environment to  the current refugee crisis; he can’t have had many appointments booked!

But the ankle; ah, yes, the ankle; still not healing. He sent Nick for another X-ray and gave me an article he’d co-written about the benefits of hydrotherapy post shoulder op, to read while we were waiting for the X-ray; fortunately it was in English.

The bone still doesn’t appear to be healing as quickly as it should, so he’s going to remove the pins. We were hoping he’d do it very soon, but he thinks it will be better left till Nick comes back from his planned cycling trip to Majorca at the end of this month; but at least the end is, hopefully, in sight and Nick can soon get back to normal.

Nous avons vu le chirurgien hier; il est ravi des progrès Nick fait à propos de l’épaule c et a presque sauter de joie quand il nous a dit combien il est bon de travailler avec quelqu’un d’aussi sportif et motivé. Il était pas pressé de se débarrasser de nous comme nous avons discuté des sujets de l’environnement à la crise actuelle des réfugiés; je crois qu’il n’avait pas beaucoup de rendez-vous réservés!
Mais la cheville; ah, oui, la cheville; toujours pas de guérison. Il a envoyé Nick pour un radio et m’a donné un article qu’il avait co-écrit sur les bienfaits de l’hydrothérapie après une operation de l’épaule, à lire pendant que nous attendions pour le radio; heureusement, il était en anglais.
L’os ne semble toujours pas guerir aussi rapidement qu’il l’aimerait, donc il enlevera les broches. Nous espérions qu’il le ferait très bientôt, mais il pense que ce sera mieux fait lorsque Nick revient de son voyage à vélo prévu de Majorque à la fin de ce mois-ci; mais au moins la fin est, je l’espère, en vue et Nick peut rapidement revenir à la normale.

The Caupenne hunt meal

Today was the annual hunt meal in Caupenne; Nick went along, but it’s too much meat for me so I gave it a miss. It started at midday and must have been good as he didn’t get home till 7 this evening, very happy with himself.

He claims not to know what languages were being spoken as he was in a group of Spanish, Italian, Arab and Portuguese, with an occasional Frenchman thrown in for good measure, but it was worth it to see Outdoor Empire recommended bows in action and in the end, says he understood well enough once he’d had a couple of glasses of wine!

After the aperos, they sat down to garbure, a mountain soup that’s a meal in itself; this was followed by paté and ham made from wild boar; then a civet, a slow cooked wild boar casserole. The next course was barbecued wild boar, the hunters have obviously caught plenty of those this year; then salad, cheese and croustade, a local type of apple pie, all washed down with vast quantities of a local red wine.. They finished off with coffee and armagnac, no wonder he looks sort of mellow!

Swimming with a champion

I haven’t written many blogs recently because there hasn’t been much to report. In fact, by the time Nick’s been to see the physio three mornings a week and we’ve been swimming, there doesn’t seem to be much week left in which to do anything!

The surgeon said swimming regularly would reduce the recovery time for Nick’s shoulder, but finding an indoor, heated pool isn’t easy as the majority of pools in France are open air and therefore closed in the winter. We found one at a thermal spa centre, about half an hour’s drive away; but it’s closed in winter. There’s another in our nearest big town, about 45 minutes from here, but we were told that it’s not very nice and the water’s pretty cold. There’s another in Dax, but apparently it’s small and usually crowded. Eventually we heard of one in Hagetmau, a mere hour and a quarter’s drive from here; it’s a lovely pool, olympic size and the water is a good temperature. If we time it right, the French are mostly leaving for lunch as we arrive, leaving hardly anyone in the water. A bonus is that a friend lives nearby, so we can invite ourselves for lunch.

A couple of weeks ago there was an elderly man doing butterfly stroke up and down the pool; he arrived at the end where I was and said he hoped he wasn’t annoying me by doing such an antisocial stroke. I have to admit that, as chat up lines go, it was original, especially as there were only five people in the pool at the time, so no lack of space. I’m not sure how flattering it is to be chatted up by an 85 year old, but hey-ho, beggars can’t be choosers! This gentleman turned out to be the national swimming champion of France in his age group (81-85) and he’ll be competing in Paris later this month to hang on to his title. Later on, in May, he’s going to the European championships in London, but when I asked how he expected to do there he said that he wouldn’t win that one because there’s a German who’s stronger than him. “We know each other, he and I”, he declared, so I asked which of them spoke the other’s language; “Neither of us; we just glare at each other” was the reply! It was an inspiration to see someone of his age so driven and so full of life.

Nick says his shoulder is gradually feeling a bit freer, but it’s now 4 months since his accident and his ankle still isn’t healing and is still having to be dressed every two days. Last time we saw the surgeon, he said if it was no better by the next appointment, he would have to remove the pins he put in. We go back next week, so I hope that’s what he decides to do; Nick’s thoroughly fed up with it now.

Entre 3 matins par semaine chez le kiné et un jour aller nager, il n’y a pas beaucoup de temps de faire grande chose. Le chirurgien a suggéré la natation pour aider l’épaule de Nick, mais il est  moins facile de trouver une piscine à l’intérieur, chauffée, ici qu’en Angleterre, ou chaque ville a sa piscine municipale, chauffée. En fin, j’en ai trouvé une à Hagetmau, une belle piscine d’une taille olympique, et on y va toutes les semaines.

J’ai rencontré un vieux monsieur il y a deux semaines, qui est champion nageur de France pour son age (85 ans). Il va à Paris ce mois-ci pour les championnats nationales; après ça, il ira à Londres pour les championnats Européen. Je lui ai demandé si il attend gagner à Londres; “Non, il y a un allemand qui est plus fort que moi; on se connais, lui et moi”. J’ai demandé qui parle la langue de l’autre; “ni l’un, ni l’autre” il m’a répondu, “on se lance des regards noirs entre nous”. Je l’ai trouvé magnifique d’avoir telle esprit à son age.

La natation semble faire bien pour l’épaule de Nick, mais la cheville n’est pas encore cicatrisé, 4 mois après l’accident. Nous espérons que le chirurgien enlèvera les broches quand on le vois la semaine prochaine.