Friends, fromage and a French funeral

We’re already four weeks into our 8-week French summer working holiday, combining more property tidying and regular workaday-working. We have scorching dry weather, and a storm or two with even hotter weather on the way! Our lawn is brown and crunchy and our lettuce is wilting…

Summer wine
Magic! Making wine appear…then disappear!

The UK’s been scorching too – we inadvertently selected the worst time to leave our once-lush English garden to be in France. A small team of people, including our (probably no longer good!) friends round the corner, agreed to water the garden for us during July. Who could have foreseen the unprecedented long, hot, dry spell we’ve had? (Sorry and thanks P&E, and A, we owe you, big time!).

Meanwhile, trying not to think about our parched plants, it’s never a dull moment here. Whilst I was going to post about vide greniers and my awesome skip-dive finds, other things have been happening. Turns out our little hamlet/community of only 5 dwellings – so quiet and empty for 10 months of the year – comes ALIVE during July and August, when our neighbours  – most we’ve never seen or met before (when introduced, I have to write down everyone’s names and relationships otherwise I forget instantly!) – all open up their holiday cottages for long weekends of family parties and general relaxing – and good for them!!

But it does mean we haven’t had much peace or privacy for a few weeks; camping in an  un-fenced garden with a hyper-reactive, barky dog and surrounded by neighbours who tend to pop by randomly from a number of directions, does not make for a peaceful time! On the positive side, I have had to speak French a lot this visit and I think we’ve ‘broken the ice’ a bit more. Thank goodness for ‘Coffee Break French’ (listen for free via Spotify, folks!).

One of the things that happened was that, sadly, Guy the farmer who used to live and farm the cottage and smallholding we acquired – passed away 2 weeks ago and of course the whole family (who still keep houses here) descended on our little hamlet in droves for over a week, for the funeral and to pay respects. Guy – ‘Papi Tracteur’ – was a well-loved and respected character around here. We attended his funeral in the village church, a 2-hour long and understandably sombre ceremony. We understood little of the service, but Guy’s family appreciated our going and we felt we have got to know our neighbours a little better. Reminders of Guy are still everywhere in the house and barns – from a long line of farmers here, Guy threw nothing potentially useful away – bolts, nuts, tractor seats, string, halters, ropes, feed troughs, broken pitchforks, hinges, tins…the inventory is impressive! We are keeping everything we can – because you never know! (This also keeps Guy’s ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy alive, which is a good, nice thing.. Also, see below…).

On a happier note, we were also invited by our other next-door-neighbours (a different branch of the same family) for apéros last weekend. Well! We expected a quiet, relatively sober couple of hours of polite chit-chat, given their recent family loss, then ‘home’ by 9-ish. However…put it down to the Blood Moon, or post-funeral grief-allaying, but by midnight, we were all doing a Conga-line along our shared track, singing our heads off to some old French pop song we’d never heard before. Then (some of the slighter people!) doing crowd-diving onto inadequate numbers of catchers (yikes), with poor husband being labelled ‘Arry Potterrrr for his seemingly magic ability to make more rosé appear (and then disappear!). Anyway, it was a cracking night, despite the recent sadness and our slight nervousness at making a favourable impression! (Common French Myths Busted: the French do not necessarily drink in moderation! But they do usually drink accompanied by lots of food. What’s not to like?!).

Turns out, apéros can also be a night-long continuous eating and drinking session (new phrase: aperitif dinatoire, meaning little drinkies and nibbles turning into a meal and possibly, a Rather Big Night!). Everyone brought something delicious along for the table – homemade bread, Quiche Lorraine, an artisan terrine, great cheeses, (we even had some half-decent British mature cheddar to take, which went down very well. But I was unprepared! Next time, we take Berkswell Cheese – and nothing less).

Anyway – apéros – you have been warned!

We’ve also had a lovely, if slightly impromptu weekend spent with friends who quit the UK a couple of years ago to set up a whole new life in the Tarn et Garonne region to run a classy cycling holiday biz Tours du Tarn cycling, near to St Antonin Noble Val. They had a couple of rare weekend nights available in their gorgeous cabin, Le Petit Hibou (comes with hot tub!) which we snapped up. And we had the nicest weekend there – they were super-frantic-busy with guests checking-in and out of their gîte, and a very new arrival in the family. But despite all that was going on, they were so welcoming and we managed to spend most of both evenings with them, which was really great – thanks again, you lovelies! (So busy in fact, no time for photos of the occasion, hence a piccy of nearby castle).

Najac-castle
Najac, one of the ‘Plus Beaux Villages‘ near our friends home in Tarn et Garonne.

Oh, and we’ve cleared out the old piggery (porcherie) which in fact turns out to be the old moutonnerie (sheep pen, I guess). Now, the venue for our 2nd bathroom, re-named ‘Number Two’ – a compost loo complete with rustic accessories, a small hornet’s nest and a snake in the rafters (a living one this time). Hopefully the snake will eat the hornets, or something equally sustainable! (Also, credits to Guy’s old and long-saved hinges which Graham used on the new loo – see, told you!).

IMG_0124
‘Number Two’ – the old moutonnerie – now a luxury glamping bathroom (AKA: compost loo).

That’s more than enough for this post – thanks for reading and until the next time / à la prochaine.

Next post: Possibly about chicken-sitting for friends in Bordeaux….! Stay tuned…

One thought on “Friends, fromage and a French funeral

  1. It sounds like (despite the sadness of the funeral) you have had a ball with your French neighbours. Cultivate them – we have really come to appreciate our French friends.
    Apèros are a wonderful invention, and even better when they morph into aperitif dinatoire (as they frequently seem to with some of our friends!)

    Liked by 1 person

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