For us 2006 was just another year in France. It is sort of like an extended vacation. Our little town in the Languedoc is located just below the Black Mountains. The highest peak is the Pic du Nore at a height of about 1200 metres. The mountains to the west are covered in pine forests and to the east more open land with villages here and there, nestled in the hills. We are walkers and winter and summer with our dog Chuckie we head into these hills a few times a week to walk on one of the unlimited number of trails to choose from. In the spring the wild flowers, rosemary, thyme, and lavender and blossoms are in abundance and the air is fresh from their fragrance. In the summer we can escape the heat in these hills by one of the lakes and in the fall the wild mushrooms are there to pick. I never tire of looking down on the valley from these hills and beyond to the Pyrenees to the south.
Alternatives for our daily outings include walks on paths along the Canal Midi, trips to the long sandy beaches by the sea, to the salt ponds where a variety of sea birds – flamingoes, cormorants, pelicans and numerous others - feed on the shrimp, and trips south to towns on either side of the Spanish border and as far south as Barcelona.
Food and music are a regular part of our outings. Our favourite restaurant nearby in the Corbiere mountains has just received the top Michelin ratings of three stars and we will visiting again shortly. As for music, jazz and classical festivals and concerts are frequent events too numerous to list here.
We also have a naturally irrigated garden below the town where we grow everything. Last year included several varieties of tomatoes, salads that change with the seasons, fine beans, onions, potatoes, artichokes, cucumbers, zucchinis, melons, assorted herbs, strawberries and raspberries plus an incredible assortment of weeds. Gardens in this town replace golf clubs as a place where families can sit and meet and bore each other talking about gardening techniques instead of golf shots. We have another garden across from the house where we grow flowers but also produce large quantities of figs and pomegranates. I am a slave to these gardens. A few days away and everything is thirsty, two weeks in Canada and the weeds have won. It is war. Big question is for how long can my back keep this up. Maybe a smaller garden next year.
In short, this is how we spend most of our time together.
Don’s Observations: Last year I talked about globalization and the need to eat tasteless genetically modified things that grow thousands of miles away because politicians and their friends tell us that we should. Our Good friend Marg Bumsag eloquently summed up the public’s attitude about this when she said; “them fruit and vegetables in the supermarket are cheaper than that locally grown stuff and they ain’t got no bumps and wormholes and look neat and tidy. She says “My kids don’t eat them anyway (unless I bust them in the mouth) so the taste ain’t important.
This year’s serious topic concerns Foie Gras, methane gas and environmental pollution. Americans have stopped eating Foie Gras (fat liver) because it is cruel to force feed geese. As every US citizen must know, only the detestable French can be so cruel. By the same logic not sure why the herbivorous animal lovers don’t ban the many more factory raised chickens and pigs that are raised on wires in windowless factories. Anyway to be fair to these herbivorous animals we should all probably stop eating meat and that goes for what my dog and wild carnivores eat as well. The problem is that replacing meat with vegetable matter like beans will cause us all to emit methane gas (CH4) more frequently and this will seriously raise the methane level in the atmosphere thus leading to an acceleration in environmental pollution. According to scientists, gas emitted from anthropogenic sources (cattle) is already a serious contributor to environmental pollution. Enough is enough. We need to think more carefully about this. Readers thoughts about this would be appreciated.
Some Additional Nice Things About 2006
Our fabulous dog, Chuckie. Most North Americans think he is an Airedale but he is actually a mostly Griffon, a medium sized dog that likes to run. I know that dog and cat lovers are bores to everyone who doesn’t own one but we love this dog who is our constant companion. He goes everywhere with us, our walks, our trips to the market, to restaurants, the banks, stays in hotels and wherever. The French like dogs and they are welcome almost everywhere.
Irene had kept the manuscripts of her dad’s music that was written in the early forties before his deportation. With the help of Peter and Catherine and professional musician friends in Toronto we were thrilled to hear this lovely music for the first time. Irene visited London and Paris and uncovered copies of a musical film produced in 1937 called the Robber Baron that her dad wrote the music for, arranged and conducted. It has become a cult film in Holland.
Last year I said that we feel good that Bush is looking worse and worse, well this year he is recognized as a disaster so we are feeling even better.
I retired from the wine business. It was mostly fun while it lasted, particularly with the suppliers and my clients but it was time to quit running back and forth between countries, peddling and lugging about cases of wine, chasing collections and fighting with the LCBO. Tim Lovelock, a friend who has a lengthy history and excellent reputation in the wine business has now ably taken over Curries’ Wine Selection.
Our vacation in Marakesh, Morocco – Included visits into the ancient Medina with its narrow streets only wide enough for pedestrians, donkeys and motorbikes, a 4x4 trip to into the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, plus swimming and wonderful food every day. It’s our third visit to Morocco and we will be back. With global warming the mountains have less snow each year thus diminishing the arable land below. Canadians might be selfishly smug about this because it will be lessen the long winter season, but the continents that depend on their mountains for moisture will greatly suffer.
We were back in Canada briefly in April and again for 6 weeks in August/September to spend time with our family including my sisters Joan and Margaret who came up from the States. Also caught up after many years with the Rev. Dick Fleming, a close friend from high school and university days in Montreal.
Many visits to France by friends and family during the year including sons, Peter and David, grandson Jack, and Irene’s friends - Traude Macht from Germany and Michele Averbug, her first friend when she came to Canada in 1952. Irene also went off to Barcelona to visit with Lynn Young from Ottawa and her daughter who is teaching guitar at the university there. Grandson Jack was here for a month in July and grandpa was forced to swim, cycle and climb over rocks but drew the line on white water rafting (it overturned), tree climbing and go carting. I am still here at 77. He is a nice kid.
Started a Blog site but still not sure where it is going. http://justtryingtosortitout.blogspot.com