French markets come into their own at this time of year. The difference between summer and winter couldn’t be more marked. In the winter, a few brave souls stamp their feet and try to stop their produce freezing while the locals hurry to get their shopping done. In summer, the number of stalls increases several-fold along with the holidaymakers, and finding a parking space is difficult.
This year, however, we noticed a distinct decrease in the number of people at the markets in Caylus (Tuesday and Saturday) during July. Yesterday, it was more like a normal August market – but this will last only until about the 15th August, when the hordes start to head for home.
It would help, of course, if the weather behaved as if it were summer. Alas, this year, it has been pretty dire in July. More of that below. However, each time we have gone to the big market at Villefranche-de-Rouergue, it has been glorious weather, even a bit too hot. The market place is overshadowed by the massive Collégiale (cathedral) but there is little shade.
I’m very fond of this market, although we don’t go that often, partly because it’s almost impossible to park anywhere near it. Local fruit and veg producers rub shoulders with purveyors of (vrai) Laguiole knives, cheesemongers, butchers and vendors of farçous Aveyronnais. The latter are a kind of small, thick pancake with herbs and minced meat, or sometimes just spinach. I’ll provide a recipe sometime – they are delicious.
Good practice or sharp practice?
At Villefranche, I bought some tomatoes from a local grower and decided to buy a couple of courgettes as well. I asked him how much they were.
“Rien, Madame!” He threw them in for nothing.
The same day, I wanted a bunch of parsley from another stall. Here, again, they gave it to me free, even though I bought nothing else from them.
At another market, alas, they took the opposing stance. I bought something from a large stall run by a man brimming with false bonhomie. He deliberately overcharged me, obviously thinking I was an affluent British tourist whom he would never see again. Wrong on all counts, except that I’m British. I will never buy from him again.
Weather July 2014
Now for the weather. This has been the worst July in our 17 years here. It was not particularly cold most of the time, but it was damp and unsettled. One nice day was invariably followed by several bad ones.
A quick reminder of our subjective weather assessment: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In July, there were:
Pluses – 14
Zeros – 11
Minuses – 6
The graph shows the percentage of plus days each July for the past 17 years (the line is the trend). The variance between good and bad months of July has increased markedly.
Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. This July we had 83.5 mm of rain compared with the average of 48.5. Also, it rained on 13 days compared with an average of 7 – so twice as often. Interestingly, the rainfall in July 2013 was almost exactly the same and yet it was one of the best months of July in 17 years. The answer is probably that it rained on only 5 days then (no doubt because of thunder storms).
So far this year we have had 568 mm of rain, about 12% above the average of 508.5 mm. The upside is that the countryside is very green this year; by now it’s often brown and parched. The downside is that we have to continue to mow the lawn.
To finish, I must show you again the photo of a swallowtail butterfly on our buddleia. I was rather pleased with it but I had to hang around for about 10 minutes to get it.
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