Once again, this is a compilation of Facebook entries, e-mails, notes and odds and ends. I have been in Montpeyroux almost three weeks now and feel myself settling into life in a small village. Work on the book continues, some days more successfully than others. I spend about an hour every day on my French– listen to radio shows, try to read French newspapers, watch videos. My vocabulary has increased, but I still struggle to understand or to string more than a sentence or two together. Sometimes as I nod and smile and pretend comprehension, I feel a bit like the village idiot. Other times, listening to the chatter of French outside my window, it can feel quite isolating and I’m grateful for my English speaking friends.
From the past week
Last week’s big event was the Transhumance, a word I’d never even heard of, but which means the seasonal movement of people or livestock from one area to another. The night before, the mairie issued sheets of cardboard for villagers to cover their outdoor plants. About an hour before the sheep were supposed to make their way through town, I walked down to the edge of the village to join the waiting throng. An accordion player kept the crowd entertained. Then, out on the road, this moving mass. The accordion player, inexplicably, began playing Scotland the Brave and the entire flock, maybe 500 or so came into view, bells around their necks. It was all over in about an hour, with the sheep happily munching grass in their new abode and nothing to show but wall-to-wall droppings.
VINEYARDS, VINEYARDS EVERWHERE, AND MORE THAN A DROP TO DRINK
Vendange is another new word, sort of. Before I came to France, I knew it only as the the name of a supermarket jug wine. Vendange, I’ve now learned is the grape harvest–an activity which takes place around September, not quite three months from now and involves the use of a lot of casual labor. Hard work, I’m told, but an interesting experience. At noon, there’s a huge communal meal, lots of wine consumed. My hand is raised. At the moment, the vines are just full of green leaves. It’s a pleasant evening stroll–out into vineyards, which seem to go on forever. Hard to believe people can drink that much wine. Actually, based on my own consumption, it isn’t hard to believe at all. Yesterday, in the village wine cooperative, I watched a man fill his wine jug from what looked exactly like a gas nozzle. Rose, Red, White–just like filling your tank.
A short drive from Montpeyroux, there’s a motorway, supermarkets and all the trappings of the 21st century. Here in the village though, I imagine that life hasn’t changed much in fifty year. Women carrying straw baskets walk up to the epicerie for vegetables and groceries. The baker weighs crusty loaves on an old fashioned scale. The butcher is closed on Mondays, something I always forget, but absolutely packed on Sunday with customers buying roasted chicken for the family dinner. The butcher also sells eggs. You fill a paper bag –sac d’oeufs– with the quantity you want. I stop at the butcher’s almost every day to practice French. “Vous avez poulet . . .? I asked one day then realized that I didn’t know the word for breasts. To the embarrassment of the butcher and myself, I pantomimed, positioning my hands to indicate an enormous pair. He understood. He didn’t have any . . . chicken breasts that is. The butcher and his sidekick wanted me to say eggs in English. Then French. My pronunciation cracked them up–sorry, I couldn’t resist.
OFF TO SPAIN FOR THE WEEKEND!
More about that next time . . .