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