I did enjoy your last dispatch from the Old Country, and I am sorry not to have attendedyour exhibition. I am in need of an occasion for a pair of slacks. The bucolic lifestyle is whittling away at my accustomed demeanor so much so that I wore the same shirt for two days this week, and have even dined without socks.
I have been reading a wonderful book, The Son, by an American author Phillip Meyer. It’s a long, epic, and savage yarn about settlers, Indians and Mexicans in 19th century Texas. The incredible cruelty, and greed, and the wealth some of the most brutal. Some passages have left me reeling. It follows several generations of one family, and is especially fascinating when recounting the lives of Comanches; I was fascinated by their taste for raw offal and blood, although I do wonder if they spoke in such a laddish way.
We have settled easily into life here in Tarn et Garonne. Days begin with freshly baked bread and home made jams and marmalades, or stewed fruits. Most with fruit I can see growing from my window. Lunches are usually bread and cheese, with some salad, and I leave dinners to Kim, with her gift of making a feast out of nothing.
I was pleased to discover some of that Jura wine I wrote about in the local super marche. And I was delighted that our most recent house guest, Eleanor, arrived bearing bottles of a red Sancerre; another rare gem.
Hubert and Anka remain the perfect landlords. They invited us to join them on a kayaking trip, east of Saint Antonin Noble Val, on the Viaur River. It was quite a journey in their Citroen Jumpy, passing fruit farms, and vineyards, limestone quarries, running parallel with a rusting railway track, and through a serpentine valley with fecund smells too many to identify. Hubert and I paddled his clinker built kayak upstream, a buzzard tracking our progress through the warm, clear water.
Kim is never happier than rummaging through the odds and ends at vide graniers. There is one almost every day. She and Eleanor returned with hand thrown pots for one euro, and a beautiful hand embroidered linen sheet. Asta is always a big hit at the markets, and we have met several people who have had Airedales themselves at some time. The local mutts are less agreeable, it may be the rich food. And there have been severable times when we were pleased Asta is such a coward and quick to scarper at the first sign of conflict.
On an early evening drive, the time of day when the colours are so saturated you almost want time to stand still, we stumbled upon the delightful hilltop town of Montpezay de Quercy. Our road passed some of the most manicured vineyards and timber forests I have seen. The mansions are impressive too, and the area, only ten or twelve miles north west of Causade speaks of money. We are all taken with the tall villa homes at the edge of the town, with views right across that sublime valley.
Of course, one is for sale and Eleanor duly made an appointment to view. What a revelation. Inside full size marble statues of Joan of Arc, and other notable French figures, enfilade doors leading to salons three meters high dressed with heavy, garnitured pieces, sconces of arms with clenched fists bearing candles, oil paintings of stout men and vast fireplaces. Imagine Citizen Kane’s Xanadu crossed with the V&A, and all for the price of a one bedroom former council flat in London. We sat and drank beer to consider her options.
Eleanor has now departed for Carcassonne to be with her son and grandchildren, but before she left she prepared a delicious fish stew with pollack and prawns purchased at the market in Causade. The poissonniere was delighted to lean the English word for the fish is ‘pollack’. He said it’s the French name for Poles, and laughed when I remarked that like the Poles, it is best served with vodka.
Sadly, Sir Kev, our paths may never cross again. Much as I have enjoyed our work together in Wapping the new editor of the section for which we are employed has deemed me surplus to requirements, and on his first day in his new job informed me, from afar, that my column is neither valued nor required. I shall miss our chats and the occasional fig roll. I daresay something will turn up, and until it does I still have eleven Havanas.
Yours as ever,