The long ‘Goodbye’ III

Ariège, Laroque d'Olmes, Pyrénées

No, you haven’t missed anything.  There was a ‘Long Goodbye II’ – another meal, another great set of walking friends – but that time I didn’t write about it.

Vanessa, making us sing - and sing it right.

Vanessa, making us sing – and sing it right.

‘Long Goodbye III’ was on Wednesday, at the choir.  I thought I was doing the offering this time.  To drink, there was my home-made elderflower cordial which, added to a crisp chardonnay, made a rather different take on the kir with which they’re familiar.  I made sausage rolls too, using the fine English-style sausage meat produced by the talented Mister Saucisse, and hunted down some cheddar to produce cheese straws.

Vanessa curtailed our rehearsal, the party got under way, various people produced cameras and took lots of group shots. As we got organised for one of these, Robert, irritatingly, disappeared.  Then reappeared, bearing a rather large bouquet, which was, apparently,  for me.  Here it is:

A bouquet, a rose.  No wonder I look so surprised.

A bouquet, a rose. No wonder I look so surprised.

Then another gift.  This really is special.  The next village along, la Bastide-sur l’Hers, is home to a specialist knife manufacturer, of world importance in his field, Jean-Paul Tisseyre.  He’s been on our ‘to-visit’ list for ages, but so far it hasn’t happened.  Instead, one of his knives came to me.  It’s a Montségur.  It’s hand- cast in one piece with a mottled horn tip.  Along its back, you can see the profile of the Pyrenees, starting from Montségur and travelling westwards.  On one side of the blade, my name’s been inscribed.  It’s a gorgeous thing, which was given to me in an equally gorgeous hand-made leather case.   I’ll treasure it always, though whether I’ll ever risk taking it out hiking, as intended, is another matter.   The French, like the English, consider that  to give knives or scissors as gifts risks ‘cutting’ the friendship, so next week I’ll be sure to make a token payment: I have a purse full of English pennies for the purpose.

Isn't this a wonderful knife?

Isn’t this a wonderful knife?

Jocelyne, our choir’s senior member, gave me an everlasting rose….

The rose before being nicely arranged.

The rose before being nicely arranged.

…. and Marianne and Danielle have offered me a book in Occitan.  They thought I wouldn’t understand much, but some knowledge of French, Italian and Latin makes the whole thing pretty accessible.

My Occitan library.

My Occitan library.

Spontaneously, the group burst into song.  ‘Se Canto’, the anthem of the Ariege, obviously, which everyone loves to sing at the least provocation, followed by ‘Les Montagnards’: then finally the Cathar hymn ‘Can lou bouyè ben de laoura’, of which I was proud to know some of the words.

Those flowere, back home.  Can you see Montségur, Henri's version, in the background?

Those flowers, back home. Can you see Montségur, Henri’s version, in the background?

Malcolm – who’s not a choir member – and I were near to tears much of the time.  We want to go home, but how can we bring ourselves to leave this community where we’ve been so welcomed and happy?


13 thoughts on “The long ‘Goodbye’ III

  1. It doesn’t surprise me to read of the various gifts and laments at your return to Blighty. A wonderfully warm, talented, creative couple who were I am sure a breath of fresh air will be sorely missed. From your blog it seems you have made the most of your Life in Ariege and friends you will never forget. I just can’t believe you are coming back here! Their loss is our gain.


  2. What a lovely, loving faretheewell! And the knife is truly a work of art. Very special all around and memories to last a lifetime. Parting is such sweet sorrow.


    1. That’s true. Though the sorrow’s uppermost just now. Sorry I’m not commenting much on your posts just now. Life IS hectic.


    1. Indeed. And we would definitely want to return to the UK at some point. Far better to do so whilst we’re young enough to get involved and re-integrate.


  3. You are going to be sorely missed in Laroque Margaret. You and Malcolm certainly seem to have made a deep impression. I’m sure you’ll both be invited back for some extended holidays.


  4. Me again – I forgot to say… L’occitan? French, Latin & Italian? I thought that maybe when you’re back in
    the UK our paths may cross but now I’m not sure that’s a good idea. There are some days i can barely get a coherent sentence out in English!


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