Country tales

My day off ended in our local bastide town, Monestiès, built in Medieval times and complete with a castle, an old stone bridge over the River Cérou and the Saint Jacques chapel, which used to be a stop-off for pilgrims on the way to Compostela.  It’s not exactly bustling on a Sunday evening, but I wandered into  the Auberge Occitane for an apératif and was greeted by its owner, Davide – a coffee balanced in one hand and his 6-month old baby daughter, Clara, on his hip.  One of the great things about living in the country is that the owners of the local restaurants and shops recognise and greet you – and seeing a new face provokes enough interest here that people make sure they get to know you if they didn’t already.  After going for a stroll round the town, I bumped into our local shopkeeper, Bernard, who is president of the local football team, in the middle of celebrating a victorious final match of the season.  Reassuringly, 11 drunk, French football players really aren’t that different from the ones back home…




The sun was setting as I drove past a local farm – it’s nothing special to look at, but it has a great story…  Many years ago, the farmer’s wife decided that she’d had enough of clearing up after her husband and three doltish sons, so shipped over a servant from the island of Réunion to do all the housework.  The young servant possessed a dangerous combination of beauty, grace and brains.  It took her under two years to pick out the most promising of the three brothers (not a great selection, admittedly, but she had to work with what was available) – and married him.  She then became the new chatelaine and they had a son, Francis, who now runs the farm with great success.  But as for her two brothers-in-law?  Well, our neighbour Mauricette (source of all the best local gossip) tells us they have never married or left the farm and still sleep in the barn with their 200 cattle…