We’ve been wondering for a while how to commemorate our leaving Laroque. Not long now: we’re working towards mid-March. We thought some kind of party, but with weather so uncertain, some friends away in February or early March, the house gradually being more and more unpicked, and with no obvious alternative such as a village hall or room-above-the-pub, it was all a bit of a puzzle.
Then the walking group here in Laroque stole our thunder. Subtle hints came our way, and we understood that we were at all costs to keep Friday evening free. We realised that food was involved – of course, c’est la France – but other than that, were left pretty much in the dark.
Finally, the invitation became more specific. We were to present ourselves at the restaurant up the hill, Table d’Angèle, at quarter to eight, and don’t be late. So we did. And there were 22 of our friends, our companions on Sunday and many other days of the week, ready to greet us as we came through the door.
Democracy was abandoned for the evening. Choose where to sit? Not a chance. We were instructed to do as we were told, and ushered to the centre seats, the places of honour. So different from our very first community meal in the same restaurant, when we were pretty new to Laroque. People then were wary, wondering how hard it would be to cope with talking to their new English neighbours. This time, we were all laughing as we sat down together. It was a fine meal, entirely cooked and served by the immensely hard-working two-person team of Obé (named after Obélix of Asterix fame) and his wife.
We took our time. There was plenty to eat, and lots to talk about, but finally, we took our last mouthfuls. The evening was not, it seemed, drawing to a close. Yvette stood up, a parcel in her hand. It was this book:
They’d chosen it because they knew it would remind us of our home here. But they thought that it linked too with our Yorkshire home, as the textile industries play such an important part in the history of both areas.
Then Henri stood up. In his retirement he’s become a keen amateur painter, and his latest piece was done with us in mind. Montségur, local landmark and place of pilgrimage. Here it is: he’s presented it to us, and it will always have a place on a wall in our home, wherever we live in the future.
Henri had another trick up his sleeve too. He produced a large jar of ‘confiture de vieux garçon’. Not much jam about this. It was jar of red fruits macerated for several months in sugar and alcohol to spoon into a glass to both eat and drink.
We put a jar of Seville orange marmalade for each guest at the meal (hence that ‘marmalade factory’) round the table, with instructions on how best to enjoy it. We continued drinking, talking, laughing. Somewhere in among, Malcolm made an emotional speech. Blanquette de Limoux finished off the meal, and eventually, slowly, the evening drew to its close.
Such a memorable evening. We’re touched beyond measure to have been so welcomed in Laroque, and that our friends chose to mark our departure with such careful planning and generosity. It’s unthinkable not to come back, and often. We’ve insisted too that they must all plan a visit to come and discover Yorkshire. Like the Ariège, it’s splendid walking country.
Thanks , Jaques and Yvette, for most of the photos. Mine seemed not to cut the mustard this time. Too busy having a good time I suppose