Lots of things have been happening this week, so forgive me if this post is a little disjointed. I’ve felt a little disjointed myself over the past 10 days, partly because of the intense heat and partly because I turned over an already weak ankle in a hole in the garden that we had stupidly forgotten to fill in. Since I can swear in English, French and Swedish, the air turned several interesting shades of blue.
Meanwhile, the SF got himself stung on the hand by an angry wasp, no doubt aggravated itself by the heat. Conscious that far worse things are happening to many others, I’ll move swiftly on.
Heat and light
We sweated out a week of canicule (heatwave) when the temperature climbed to 38C or more (100F+) during the day and didn’t go below 20C at night. In those temperatures, you don’t do anything active.
A serious brush fire down near Varen required the attendance of 98 pompiers (firemen) and a plane that dropped flame-retardant powder on the blaze. Forest fires are becoming more common here, which underlines the need to be vigilant and not do stupid things like lighting bonfires during a drought. They are illegal all year round in our département, anyway.
Just when I was despairing of my garden ever recovering, the weather broke last Wednesday with a spectacular storm. We sat on our bolet (covered balcony) and watched it unfold, jumping at a couple of almost simultaneous flashes and bangs. The power of nature is pretty impressive when unleashed like that.
A healthy 17 mm of rain fell, and you could almost hear the garden breathe a sigh of relief afterwards. The lagerstroemia (crepe myrtle), whose buds had previously refused to open, suddenly burst into flower, as did the hibiscus bushes.
Our place suffered no obvious damage. But when I drove down the lane a couple of days later, I saw that an enormous branch had been ripped off an oak tree beside the road. It had brought down the telephone cable with it. Those cables are obviously made of tough stuff, since our line wasn’t cut. A long scar ran down the trunk of the oak tree, which had presumably taken the brunt of a close lightning strike. The branch was the casualty.
We had another son-et-lumière show last night, but it was less violent. Welcome drizzle is refreshing the garden again today.
Food, glorious food
If you think I’m obsessed with food, you’re right. Many thanks for your fantastic responses to Robin Ellis’s Ma Vie Française interview last week, one of my most popular posts.
Robin and his wife, Meredith, kindly invited me to the online launch party for his book, Robin Ellis’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking. This was beamed on Zoom from Robin’s kitchen in the Tarn.
Since I am inquisitive (aka nosy) by nature, I enjoyed this aperçu inside Robin and Meredith’s home. I love nosing around other people’s houses.
The event was great fun: Robin showed us his ratatouille recipe, and then other participants showed dishes they had made from the book. Plenty of questions ensued about, for example, substitutes for certain ingredients and the Mediterranean way of eating.
The SF and I have not eaten out in months because of you-know-what. However, enterprising local restaurants started takeaway services after lockdown had eased.
I wrote in an earlier post about the excellent menu à emporter we had from the Oustal del Barry in Najac. Since this is a big holiday weekend in France (le 15 août celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary), we decided to treat ourselves again to their continuing takeaway service.
Najac is a 25-minute drive from us. At this time of year it’s heaving with tourists, so we were in and out as fast as possible.
On the menu for a very reasonable 15€ a head: faux filet de veau with aligot (cheese and potato purée) followed by chocolate brownies with a vanilla-y apricot mousse. Here, I should emphasise that local veal is reared under the mother in the fields and not milk-fed in dark intensive-farming conditions.
I was planning to take a photo of our lunch, but we ate it all before I had the chance.
A funny old summer
It’s been a funny old summer. Many events have been cancelled, including our local repas de quartier (neighbourhood meal), which should have taken place on Friday. Others are taking place only under strict conditions. We are avoiding many of those, simply because not everyone feels the need to respect the regulations. And the list of places I had planned to visit has been kicked into touch. But the examples above show how people here have adapted to the constraints in some cases.
Wherever you are, take care and stay safe.
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