Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Make Wine, not Strikes!

After a pretty crappy week I was pretty desperate to get out and about on Sunday. The boys were not, however, or not with me. They had much more entertaining and important things to do with their friends. Which, being a pretty nasty mummy, I scuppered and forced them to come with me.

It's not that I was asking them to visit the Musée Fabre (art gallery? BORING), or walk around an ancient village (shops shut? BORING), or go for a walk in the garrigue (without friends? BORING), or go on a cycle ride (ditto walk in the garrigue), collect mushroom (DON'T LIKE MUSHROOMS!) or some other deathly activity so beloved by ancient old crocks like parents. No, I suggested we go to the wine festival at Valflaunès.

BORING, they said. TOUGH, I replied. Sulks ensued especially because it meant my youngest couldn't finish off his morning's adventure cycling with his pal.

Honestly, parents get told to go out and do things with their kids so they can enjoy quality time with you; you try and arrange something a bit different and what do you get? BORING! I dragged them into the car with a picnic. I'm feeling super skint at the moment what with the sodding Xmas train tickets, taxes, rentrée expenses and two birthdays. Reeling, you could say, and the dish washer's gone on the blink again... So I was not keen on buying too much sur place even though that was the point of the festival and I felt pretty guilty I couldn't splash out more, but that's life - it's a bitch.

Just as we arrived, it started raining. It had been a glorious morning with bright sunshine and a nippy wind, we arrive and it starts spattering. Luckily it didn't last long. We met up with my pals who have kids, to the relief of the boys and went to the business end of the village where they were selling degustation (tasting) wine glasses for €5 each. Once you have a glass, you can taste any wine from the myriad of local producers, and buy a bottle, natch if you like what you taste. I just went tasting and tasting, being skint...

The village was full of activity and lined on both sides of the road with stands. We passed ones of local produce - olive-based, chestnut-based, cheese-based, herb-based, biscuit/cake-based, dried fruits, veggies, charcuterie, soap, the usual mix. There were stands of food being cooked on the spot - roast chickens, oriental, deep-fried veggie, aligot, chips, hotdogs, mussels, crepes, panini, etc.The organisers had laid out tables and benches at various spots along the road where you could sit and eat and enjoy the entertainment, taste the wine and spend as much money as possible.

The air was fragrant with all the delicious cooking smells, the wine was varied; perfumed, rich, light, fruity, red, white, alcoholic... We found a table and benches, plonked ourselves down, sent the kids to a table over the road, and had a jolly time eating, drinking and chatting as more friends came along to join in.

Musicians made their way from spot to spot. We had capella singing by a bunch of old geezers in berets and red neck-ties - all French - no expat piss-taking here. I wondered if they were singing strongly-disguised drinking songs; it all got quite merry as they made their way from one domaine barrel to another... Another group wheezed their breath into old brass band instruments to produce a sound well-known to any village carnival while a trio of bizarre-looking clowns juggled with strange leers on their faces, and large noses before a bemused audience.The only thing missing, in fact, was some morris dancing although there was the next best thing - a group dancing around a May pole!

Small children had donkey rides, slightly bigger children had rides in a goat cart, and there was also what looked like an old farm trailer hitched up to a chunky horse, and decorated with autumnal bits and bobs.

I'm afraid that once we'd sat down, we did rather hog the table until it was time to go some 3hours later. I don't think this was actually a problem because there were a lot of tables out, and even if it was, tough. The others did buy food and drink and very yummy it looked too.

Were the boys bored? Well, as with so often when we go out, getting them out is the hardest bit, because they nearly always enjoy themselves once there (except Musée Fabre). They each had a pal their age, and wandered up and down the village quite independently doing their own thing. I gave them money for a Nutella crepe each which kept them happy!

My TWDB had wanted to join us after his motorbike ride, but he was low on petrol and unable to find a drop to buy, so had to go straight home before he ran out completely. Whatever you want to do at the moment, someone on strike is preventing you from doing it - having family over on the train, meeting up at a wine festival, going on a driving holiday, and so on. It's irksome and frustrating, and not set to end. From fun and wine and frolics, to strikes and holding the country to ransom and threatening small businesses (many of whom were represented at the festival).

That's French living for you - the sublime and the ridiculous.

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