Tuesday, 7 August 2007


The bunting is going up all over the village. From every lamp post now hangs a pennant in village colours, blue and yellow; every balcony now caparisoned like a medieval charger. All in preparation for the Medieval Fair which starts next week. Soon the jugglers, stilt walkers, musicians and fire eaters will turn up, this town another stop on the summer festival circuit in the South West.

Columns of medieval knights on horseback will process up and down the streets before thrilling us with their jousting tournaments and hordes of contented children will swarm over the market place, full of wooden mediaeval toys with not a battery in site. Music will float on the air from every public space, the sound of the drums reverberating off these ancient walls. Tourists will flock to watch, listen and feel the rhythm as the heart of the bastide beats strongly again.

However it's not the arrival of the cavalcade that I anticipate with a mixture of excitement and hesitation, it's the Other Family, due later this week. School gate friends, great company, like minded, wine swiggers, Toon Army. Their children are delightful. Often, I borrow the daughter for girlie things like baking pink fairy cakes and playing Barbies. She's a real little sweetie, though she's named after a battle maiden and more than able on her own to cope with older brothers. The son, a delightful, thoughtful boy who loves both his farmyard pets and all things mechanical, is soulmate to my elder boy.

We should all get on, there is room enough here for us all to spread out and a new cellarful of wine to lubricate any awkwardness but they've never been here before. Our family has our own history here now and love it for many reasons but will the Other Family fall in love with the village as we have done? Will they find it quaint and pretty or just run down? Quiet and peaceful, full of character or dull and boring? There is no beach, we don't even have a garden or what my sister calls a sit ootery here, it's a town house. A novelty for country friends perhaps, the sounds of the street instead of the hedgerow. Step out of our door into a road with a florist, a bakery, a photographers, a beauty parlour, the new " lovely things" shop and not forgetting the best pizza restaurant in the world just two doors away! Not too tough a stagger home then...hic!

Oh I do hope they like it...I'll let you know...

Friday, 3 August 2007

Flash Dance

Thursday, market day again.The stalls from the morning market have been cleared away and there's not so much as a lettuce leaf left on the bleached limestone of the now deserted Square. Soon the afternoon torpor sets in; the air is heavy with hardly a rustle of the leaves in the plane trees; there is just the sound of scraping chairs as the waiters in the restaurants tidy up. The shops shut for the lunchtime siesta. Where all was bustle, now it's quiet, drowsy.

In the heat of the afternoon, a few persistent tourists make the slow trek up the hill past our house to the Square to marvel at the medieval architecture. Cameras click and try to capture the history of the place in mega pixels when really it's written in every large stone, every massive Gothic arch. Shuttered windows with pretty flower boxes full of orange geraniums look down on the Square, while the swallows twitter in their nests under the huge beams which hold up the arcades. In the shaded cafes, couples linger over chilled beer and a family crowds a table top with Orangina bottles like so many skittles.

At around six in the evening though, as a little gentle wind starts to take the fierceness out of the day's warmth, the pace quickens. White vans appear and disgorge tables, chairs and a PA system. Smaller rustic vans arrive and local producers set up their stalls around the edge of the Square for tonight is the Night Market.

Soon there is a steady stream of people heading up to the Square, just as the sun is setting, the last few golden rays visible at the end of the alley which runs at right angles to our road. The western sky fades from pale blue to lightest gold, apricot to lavender as the far dark clouds reflect the last of the light. As darkness falls, there must now be a hungry crowd of about two hundred visitors, walking round the displays, tasting and testing.

It's a brilliant concept. The local farmers and vegetable growers provide the dishes, all ready to eat. Choose from grilled organic lamb, tartiflette, a potato dish with onion and salmon, kebabs made from local beef, pate de foie or pizza with country ham or goats' cheese. The nearby vineyards are represented too; taste before taking a few bottles back to your place at the big communal tables. Dessert is a delicious tarte aux pommes with a nippy eau de vie de pruneaux on the side. The children love the Nutella crepes, chocolate smeared round their mouths. Everyone is satisfied with the bargain.The guests get a memorable meal, in a wonderful setting at a reasonable price direct from the producers; they in their turn, get a wider appreciation of the quality of their home grown specialities.

In the corner, on the steps which form a little stage, a great 3-piece band belts out some good old rock and roll classics. The pretty lead singer is excellent, sounds a bit like Shakira ,while my elder son eyes the electric guitar with longing in his heart. The lady behind the huge paella pan is boogieing away, having a ball, and three little girls are making up a dance routine under the arch of the Black Prince's Tower. I get up to dance too and my boys are terminally embarrassed but I don't care. Revenge for tantrums in Sainsbury's! A couple of elderly village matrons, on their usual nightly stroll, shake their heads and move away to quieter parts.

It's getting late now as families with toddlers, finally asleep in their pushchairs, drift away. Dads carry exhausted little ones, soft pudgy arms wrapped round big strong shoulders. Older children, wired on Coke and sugar, dance and skip down the hill to their waiting cars. The music stops at eleven o'clock and even the teenagers stop comparing mobile phones and move on.

We take a detour to see the glow worms again on the dark side of the hill, little tiny green flashlights in the long grass and a magical end to the evening.