Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spring break

The children are off school for a couple of weeks and the town feels deserted. We don't miss the 4:30 to 5 p.m. traffic jam when parents pick up the kids, but the market is a bit lacking in joie de vivre. The local vegetable growers seem to be taking a holiday too. One can buy great peas from Italy and spectacular artichokes from Spain, but not much local produce except leeks. Those huge gnarly white asparagus shoots are everywhere, but they seem hardly worth the peeling. We are up to four varieties of strawberries, but some have travelled a distance to get here.

Next week brings International Labour Day, so maybe there will be a parade. The students must need a break after all their recent manifestations, so it's up to the older generation to keep the tradition going.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter

We were late making a reservation for lunch on Easter Sunday, but one of best local village restaurants was able to offer us a table outside. We ignored the weather forecast and were rewarded with a beautiful spring day. We did not, however, share the restaurant with French families celebrating the holiday: only one of the sixty or so patrons present was apparently French, the remainder being undeniably British. It's not that French provincial families rarely eat out (although that's generally true), it's that the Brits "discover" a restaurant and then all their friends pile in. The French then move on, which means that once a restaurant pleases ex-pats, it is virtually obliged to cater to the new clientele to survive. Fortunately for French cuisine, the Brits have not flooded into the Lot as they have in Dordogneshire and the English menu is still a comparative rarity.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cowslips

Primula VerisThe wildflower of early March was the violet, relatively hard to find, as it hides in the shade. A little later came the not-so-shrinking annual primrose. April brings the cowslip, abundant on roadside verges in the West of the Lot.

Strawberries

The markets came to life last week. We had seen strawberries from Spain for a couple of weeks, but none grown locally. Now we can buy garriguettes, the sharper and sweeter strawberries that will be with us into the summer. The more fragrant Mara des Bois will be in a little later. Last year I counted seven distinct varieties of strawberry in Cahors market, including the international strawberry, the Agathe. Poor old Agatha: she seems to have given her name to supermarket standard potatoes as well as berries. Perhaps she is the patron saint of the bland.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Halte au blocage!

There was a general strike last Tuesday in France and another is threatened for next week. So every left-thinking intellectual is against the CPE? Think again. It's hard to find anyone intelligent who supports the current manifestations. Unlike the student revolt of the sixties, where important principles were in play, this time around it's mainly a bit of fun at the government's expense (and the country's).

A young man was handing out leaflets in the market today. It turned out that he was a student at the local teacher training college and was campaigning for a halt to the school and university closures that have severely threatened the ability of students to take their finals and get on with their lives. A friend's daughter is similarly disturbed that she cannot complete her M.A. this year because of the closure of Toulouse University.

The dirty little secret is that the main beneficiaries of the CPE would be the heavily unemployed urban under-26s without higher education. The whiter, especially male, graduates of university-level education aren't doing so badly and have no interest in changing the system. This is not so much a revolution as a reactionary movement of disaffected students, supported by the unions, who are very powerful despite representing only 5% of the workforce.