3 Jan 2010


Confession time – I really did go to a lotto (bingo) afternoon in the village hall last week.

It’s only the second time I’ve ever been to a bingo game in any country. The first was a couple of years ago in another village. This time, there was a group of us – Nic, Duff, Margaret, Elizabeth, Paul and me – and so we headed off to try our luck.

The more serious players had proper metal discs (which were very deftly picked up with a magnetic wand at the end of each game) to put on their number cards.

Us ‘newbies’ were most definitely not that organised – we were given a plastic cup of corn kernels.

However, the lack of the right kit certainly wasn’t detrimental to my game!

Third game of the afternoon – I realise I have one number to go in a line. Next thing, I’m calling out “quine!”.

Yes, I’d won myself one of those amazing prizes hanging up on the stage.

You’ve got to love it – coat racks being put to good use, displaying all the dried hams, guinea fowls and chickens. Bottles of wine and boxes of oysters below. The other meats were in the fridges.

Once it was verified that I had in fact won, I was given a handwritten note of what the prize comprised. We thought we could understand all of the items, but were puzzled by what we thought was ‘langue du porc’ (pig’s tongue).

While I knew the other items wouldn’t go astray (the oysters, guinea fowl, chicken and wine), I knew I wouldn’t be eating the pig tongue.

And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t convince anyone else in our group to cook it and give it a go.

So it was decided I would offer it to my neighbour – the very one who reluctantly returned the hare I’d inadvertently killed a few weeks back.

Wrong! – tripped up again by the French language. When I went to collect the winnings at the end of the games, I was presented with a huge pack of pork chops and two roasts. The handwriting that we’d mis-read said ‘longe de porc’ (loin pork chops).

And let me say that we all had a veritable feast that very evening back at my place – oysters, and the roasted poultry.

All the chops and roasts have been divided up amongst the family and are now in our respective freezers.

Was it a fun afternoon?

Yes - definitely - especially given the outcome.

Will I become a regular bingo player?

I think probably not, but watch this space ………!

Picking up the prizes - and the moment when I realise that it's pork chops (Nic was filming here, to record the moment when I was to take delivery of the pig's tongue!)

Boxing Day Truffles

And on Boxing Day? – a truffle fair at Villeneuve-Minervois. Truffle fairs are held in various villages in the region at this time of year. This one at Villeneuve-Minervois was the first of three, spread over a couple of weeks.
There is a man who is provided by the local authorities to check each truffle before it is offered for sale. He slices a tiny piece off the truffle and smells it, to check its authenticity and aroma.
I wasn’t really sure what the order of the day would be, except that there would be a sale of the actual truffles at 11.00 am.

I certainly know now.

There was a rope separating the crowd from the sellers at their tables, and I managed to get a good place at the front and took a few photos and videos.

At 11.00 on the dot, I was all poised to get a video of the actual sale happening, when a gun went off very close with a hell of a bang, the rope dropped and the not-insubstantial crowd of people behind me surged forward to the tables, taking me with them!

So there I was, with people frantically trying to buy truffles, wedged up against the table!

I got a bit of video of the frantic action, and then squeezed back out to let the real buyers get their truffles. They were sold on the day for about €1200 / kilo.

Back in the car park, the Swiss couple that I was talking to earlier showed me their purchases. ‘Mission accomplished’, he said. They had three small truffles in a paper bag and he let me smell them. I’m guessing hundreds of Euros worth – I’m wondering if they came from Switzerland especially?

Christmas 2009

Firstly, an update on the turkey we were meant to be having for Christmas lunch. I mentioned here earlier that we’d ordered an organic free-range turkey from a small veggie grower on the outskirts of a nearby village. Well, what happened was this!

On the 22nd Nic and I went to collect it. The gate to the yard was locked, despite signs that the shop was open. Across the road in a field of vegetables, a man was picking lettuces.

I figured this may be the owner, and this bit of land may be an extension of his small-holding. So we drove over, and he came over to the fence to speak to us. I asked him if he was the proprietor of the vegetable shop over the road, because we had come to pick up our turkey.

Well, no, he most certainly was not. However, he was very keen to engage in a conversation.

He came through the fence and spoke at length and very passionately about the ‘situation’ with the shop over the road. Eventually, we understood exactly what he was telling us. He says the man over the road gets his turkeys (and rabbits!) from a battery farm and sells them on as organic and home-raised!

He kept using the word ‘escroc’ which I had to look up when I got home, and I found out means crook / con man / swindler! Now there’s another word for my vocabulary. In fact, he even showed us a photo that he’d taken on his mobile phone of the turkey delivery truck outside the said property, which he said he’d taken only the Thursday before.

I'd never seen any turkeys - and definitely no rabbits - in the small garden before, only a few chickens, ducks and geese. I'm not about to identify the shop nor the village in case the story's not entirely accurate.

However, Nic and Duff were heading back from Carcassonne the next day and pulled over and managed to get one from a supplier of fresh turkeys – and here it is.

Before -
After -

And I have to say it was all delicious, including the bits of Queensland Blue roasted pumpkin from Nic and Duff's garden.

As I’ve mentioned before, my son Paul arrived here for Christmas. It was beaut to all be together for a rather large and delicious Christmas lunch with plenty of fine wine.

However, we did go for a huge long walk later in the afternoon – weather was again stunning – clear blue skies.

We walked to the Tour (tower) de Boussecos.
Historically, this tower was a strategic watchtower – apparently built by the Romans, and later besieged by the Visigoths and then destroyed by the Saracens. It’s a natural rock that’s been fortified and affords views up and down the Valley of the Cesse.

What the photo doesn't show is the stone-constructed walls and reinforcements that can be seen around several sides. And the view after climbing up to the base of the rock is amazing.


And below are a few Christmassy bits 'n' pieces:

Pre-Christmas street entertainment in Narbonne

Indigo, drinking her favourite drink panache (a very weak shandy)
- ok here for her to drink (and buy at the local shop).
No nanny-state here - now, what are
some of those reasons I love living here?

Julia - definitely smiling - with
her gift of 'A Year Sponsorship of an Orang-Utang'
Paul (men are so hard to buy for) -
also pretty pleased with his
donation of a bee-hive to Malawi village.
Aston - not forgotten.
He got his own pillowcase with pressie (rubber duck)!

Moving sideways

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