mardi 17 septembre 2013

It should be wood - that time of year again already

One minute it was summer, and actually quite summery in the end, the next thing you know, it's bois de chauffage time again.

It's actually quite worrying once it gets into September if you haven't got a walloping great pile of dry timber all ready for winter. Especially if you don't have central heating. It becomes increasingly vital to do something about it.

In my case that means getting the nice Monsieur Alain Bellamy and his cohorts to slice six cubic metres of oak and beech into bite-sized pieces for my woodburner.

Then I stack it all behind the house, as pictured, in mid chaos. Mon dieu! Burning all that priceless hardwood? Well, not exactly. Oak grows like weeds on the hillsides in l'haute vallée de l'Aude. You won't end up with any wonderful park-type mature trees, because after a certain size, they would simply fall off les slerpes. In any case it's a renewable resource, and it's rather nice to know that you've already paid for it. No need to dread the heating bill next Easter . . .

There's always a big change of gear round here after La Rentrée, or when the schools go back. I've never quite understood why French schools only provide parents with La Liste De Toutes Les Choses Essentielles Qu'il Faut Absolument, that's to say All The Stuff Your Sprogs Must Have, only a week before term starts. But they do.

It inevitably results in mass panic as hapless parents zoom round the shops desperately seeking textbooks, stationery, football boots, clothes, pens, pencils and ten different types of exercise book. Nobody knows why, but it's always been like this, which is a cogent enough reason for doing anything in la belle France.

From our point of view in Fa and district, it means that thousands of tourists suddenly vanish, leaving it possible to circumnavigate our agreeable local market in neighbouring Esperaza without suffering crush injuries.

Once again the Sunday constitutional becomes possible: wander down au marché, meet people you actually know, be able to find a seat and buy a coffee, pick up the latest gossip. It's all a bit of a relief really.

Let's hear it for La Vache Qui Rit - the laughing cow

This, believe it or not, is the hot, happening tourist destination of Rennes-les-Bains, 20 mins or so from my front door, pictured circa 1900.

I can't help thinking that the noble art of publicity photography has matured since this somewhat passive shot was taken.

RLB was actually brand new at the time, built to capitalise on the locality's natural hot springs, at a time when health spas suddenly became popular all over Europe.

In fact the village was heaving in summer as thousands of grockles descended on the place to take The Cure. This treatment survives to our own times, mostly being a variety of different ways to stay soaking wet every day for two weeks. Apparently it's good for your rheumatism.

This all begs the question of why on earth produce a postcard that gives a fair impression of nuclear winter? Practically no leaves on the trees and hardly a soul to be seen. Venez nombreux à Rennes-les-Bains! Meet our resident old duck, Madame Olive, and Suzette the solitary sprog. And let's hear it for our resident comedian La Vache Qui Rit! (note cow's bum, bottom right).

That may possibly be a pet dinosaur to the left of Madame Olive or just some exotic topiary . . .

* La Vache Qui Rit, which translates as The Laughing Cow, is a popular "plastic" cheese, very similar to Dairylea.