December 2007

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Het weer in de Gers


mama cutting back the brambles
She's a lumberjack and she's OK. Caroline's mum, Marianne, gets angry and hacks the old branches back with a vengeance.

putting the chairs away for winter
Papa Karthaus gets the summer furniture out of the
winter rain. We'll invite him in April to put them back again!

sawing logs
Talking of lumberjacks...

papa and mauw
Funny how cats just know who's not comfortable with them,
then promptly sit on them. They were inseparable in the end.

le monde a l'envers restaurant
A pre-Christmas lunch after all that hard work. Marina joined us in Marciac for some sticky toffee pudding. Mmmmmmm.

virtual tour photo
Perry started in ernest with his 360° virtual tours for Purslow's Gascony, estate agency in the Gers.

the gallery 65 in castelnau magnoac
Perry, about to expose himself in Castelnau...

hanging pictures
Funny, detailed obsevations of daily life in Castelnau Magnoac

pig's head
Bacon sandwich anybody?

angus at the christmas market in trie-sur-baise
Caroline and Angus, Santa's most eligible helper, enjoy the late December sun at the Trie Christmas market.

Carolina et the christmas market in trie-sur-baise
I wonder how many of these saw this side of Christmas?

Rock and salsa
In October we enrolled in a dance class with a load of other friends. Eventually we were one of the remaining couples still attending, as interest waned and excuses mounted. Still, that meant we had more personal attention and learnt more. By Christmas we were all Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. Not.

Karthaus DIY team arrives
Marianne and Peter, Caroline's parents, came for ten days in December, with a car full of supplies, tools, work clothes and reading material. Despite the lst supplied, they got stuck in and moved, sawed, chopped, washed and scrubbed anything that was silly enough to be within reach. Marianne took her duty of guarding the washing line very seriously, especially when the sun was out.

Duracel bunnies
Peter and Marianne's energy really helped us to gain a lot of ground on the house and garden front. Their fresh imput and enthusiasm encouraged us to get so much done. Being self starters, they often got on with whatever they felt needed doing. This freed Perry up to continue working and gave Caroline time for herself. Thanks folks!

Exposing himself again
Perry's December exhibition went quite well. The gallery was new and the opening was on a bitterly cold night, that also happened to be the same evening the French national telethon. Still, the mayor and ex-mayor of Puydarrieux came, which was a great honour. There were a lot of people laughing as they scanned the walls, but we didn't go laughing to the bank. Country folk don't have the money to spend on art. The drawings and paintings can be seen on Perry's professional site at La Baguette Magique.

Round and round and round
Perry has also been working with English estate agent, Ian Purslow. Ian's agency is an established, bespoke company that only deals in the larger, more prestigious properties of Gascony. No old ruin, with a dodgy roof next to a grain silo from him, no sir. Perry has been creating 360 degrees virtual tours and annotated floor plan sketches for some of his clients properties. You can see an example on the Purslow's Gascony site (This particular example is stylishly renovated and absolutely not expensive).

Christmas stuffing
Peter and Marianne left a couple of days before Christmas. We planned to have a quiet few days, just inviting our Dutch friends, Ina and Jacques, to dinner on Christmas day. Then we discovered that Ernest the carpenter would be alone on Christmas eve, so invited him over. We had a great evening over a simple dinner, sharing stories of Christmases past. That evening, Alain, his son, called to invite us to come have lunch with him and his family the next day, not taking no for an answer. We told him we had guests coming at 5 pm and he said we'd be done long before that.

Yeah right.

We arrived at noon for apéritifs. There were maybe 14 of us. Several Pastis, whiskies and Flocs later, we all rolled to the table for several courses. Oysters, king prawns, smoked salmon, foie gras and roti de porc. Each washed down with a different wine. We managed to leave before the daube de boeuf arrived, just in time to receive our guests for dinner. Thankfully dinner had already been well prepared, so we lit the candles and log burner and dug in for a second round and a thoroughly enjoyable evening. We both went to bed feeling like Mr Creosote from the Monty Python film 'The meaning of life'.

Making bacon
Two days after Christmas, we were invited to help Alain and his family and friends, with the pelle porc. Ernest had been fattening up two pigs since March and it was their time. Caroline stayed out of the way when the first pig was hung up and bled. It was then placed in a long metal bath where it was covered in boiling water and a peeling powder. It was all hands on deck as the hair of the pig was scraped, peeled and then burnt from the skin (thus the name pelle porc). Once completely cleaned, the carcass was lifted up by its back legs from a tractor and cut open down the front. The organs and intestines were carefully removed along with the head. It was sawn through the length of the beckbone, from the tail to the shoulders, ending like a V. It was then hung up in the barn overnight to let the meat settle. We went through the same process with the second pig.

Finally, we drove down to the stream and washed out the large and small intestines, which would hold the sausage meat and boudin. The stomach, heart, lungs, kidneys and liver are all used in one preparation or another. We returned to wash our hands and all sat to eat a hearty late lunch of foie gras and farci de poulet.

The following day, we helped chopping, mincing, making saucisse, saucisson and boudin (using the intestines as skins), paté, roti, chops, paté de tête and preparing pigs trotters. That lunchtime, we ate the most deliciously fresh boudin ever. We both decided that something vegetarian was in order for dinner; you can only see, taste and smell so much meat in a day.

Perry created a short film from the still photography taken on the two days. You can see the film here. You will need to have Quicktime installed to see it. Free downloads of Quicktime for Windows and Mac are available here.

Old and new
We spent New Year's eve with friends at a café in Castelnau Magnoac. Good company, good food and about three hours of non-stop dancing. We'd booked the hotel across the square and slipped between the covers well into the early hours. I always find the pressure to have a great time on this evening can only leave one disappointed. Still, we enjoyed it for what it was, which is more than can be said for the lumpy beds, less than fresh carpet and the non-running shower in the hotel. Being the only one around and run by the same family for generations, it has not moved on and is long past its 'best by' date.

Ok, that's all folks. It was a great year, though this year we plan on cutting down on the hosting and upping the self indulgence quota. Time for us to see a bit more of our local beauty and attractions. Now we just need to earn enough to go anywhere!

Until next month,

A bientôt.

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© 2008 Perry Taylor and La Baguette Magique, France.