We shared the final days of our holiday at La Hune with our Belgian friends Laurence, Claude and their son Corentin, which provoked another round of applied gourmandising; the need for some additional explorations around the local vineyards and domains; and another visit to the Auberge de Bardigues. We came back by separate ways, much as we had arrived, with Alli, Ella and Puck van Oss flying from Toulouse, and Gwen, Bonnie and I driving back via stops in Fitou, Perpignan, where we nearly didn’t find anywhere to stay the night, then northwards the next day to the Gard where we had lunch with my friend Mike, looking every bit the grizzled Frenchman that he has always aspired to be. My default picture of him was with beret, striped jersey, drainpipes, an ambiguous expression and an acrid Gitane betwixt lips. For the last third of his life, he has bought a studio for one with a small roof terrace in the mediaeval middle of a small but highly cultured village where they organise bull running and have orchestras to play to the cafes (but probably not at the same time). In Aigues Vives he is in his element. Given that he is a cancer survivor and now in good health, he was well advised to eschew the village of Aigues Mortes a bit further down the road. We drove on to stay the night in Montélimar, where Gwen discovered the delights of fresh nougat and I rejoiced to stay in the town for which I had so often only marked my passage by buying the eponymous nougat at the eponymous motorway stop.
The weather was admirably hot in south west France, and one morning I took Gwen and Puck to the Dune du Pilat, a massive sand dune by the sea south of Bordeaux and by Arcachon. It towered above us and, as I looked up at this mountain of sand from the bracing Atlantic, I thought of Jon Voight climbing the cliff in the film Deliverance. We decided not to return by the way we came (too tiring) but around by the side of the dune. However, we found ourselves on a route march in the hot heat through the curling orange peel driveways of the Beverley Hills-type suburbs of Arcachon, and needed some serious orienteering before finally getting to the car. On another day we went off to the Condom market, also so that Gwen and Puck could take the obligatory pictures by the town sign, as Jessie and Ella had so hilariously done years previously. Nearby we also visited Le Romieu, a village of many and varied cat statues, where Puck was could add significantly to her school project and I had Duo de Foie Gras. We supped often at Mansonville’s new and much improved restaurant Le Saturnin, and I signed an agreement with the village mayor to lend some of my land to the village as a site for petanque. However, apparently this may not bring back the mid-summer click-clack of boules to the village. A local told me that it wouldn’t work as it was too far away from a beer (120 metres).
La Hune, Mansonville, August 2012
Back home in Leymen, the swimming pool became a social catalyst, promoting and hosting a series of planned and impromptu parties as the temperatures stayed high. I would often be distracted, as I looked out of the window of my office at the top of the house, by the sight of Alli and one or some of my daughters and their friends lying in a row on sun-beds, quite the pretty maids all in a row. That said, Ella has been working at home on an internet research project and Jessie has been in New Zealand for the second time in three years, visiting her friends and relations, including Christine, Ramon, Talulah, Becky, Lily, Luis, Donnamaree, Dylan and the mighty McClay family. We went to the immaculate house and garden of our friends Jane and Martin for a party, and I got into a game of beerpong with Martin against some younger folk. Beerpong is a cross between golf and basketball, played without bats on a shove ha’penny pitch with beer for points. In short, we lost in controversial circumstances in Fergie time. We also went with LeeAnn and Jasper during a cloudburst of epic proportions to the annual food fair, Agrogast, at Hagenthal, where we had a dinner carmarguaise. We were interrupted at one stage by Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, who enquired after our enjoyment of the meal. Afterwards the waitress gave the men an armagnac and to the ladies a red heart-shaped piece of marzipan. She cautioned them, however, that on no account should they eat it. Why was that? Because it was soap. So that’s how they clean their palate in the Carmargue…
Lionel playing Beerpong, August 2012
Near the end of the month it rained on our parades for several days, including on the afternoon of the back to term parents’ association’s barbecue, and the Rue de la Scierie street party, as well as a small exploratory get-together in Basel that I had organised to encourage more social contacts between the Swiss and the English-speaking expatriates, EnglishSwissTalk. As I am not yet ready to accept that the summer is over, I wish you all, wherever you are, a very fine Indian summer.
yours, in the name of Saint Martin