A Flashback to the Orange Man

Ariège, Food & Cooking, Spain

Here’s a blast from the past: from November 2012 in fact, when we were hunkering down for winter in France. It was round about now that The Orange Man arrived …

THE ORANGE MAN

Winter has arrived.  How do I know?  Although the nights are cold, the afternoons are still for going walking or tidying up the garden wearing a tee-shirt, beneath a duck-egg blue sky. So until the other day, I thought we were clinging on to autumn.

But on Thursday, the Orange Man arrived.  This is exciting enough news for it to be worth phoning a friend.  Every year, once winter kicks in and the orange harvest is well under way in southern Spain, a huge container lorry arrives in Lavelanet. It parks up at a disused petrol station on the main road into town and becomes an impromptu shop.

The man with the lorry, the Orange Man,  speaks only Spanish, and sells only oranges.  Not singly or by the half-dozen, but in large 10 kilo boxes.  10 kilos, 10 euros.  What a bargain.  These oranges, though sometimes a little knobbly and in irregular sizes, are the juiciest and tastiest you’ll ever eat, and it’s no wonder that whenever you pass, you’ll see someone pulling up their car and opening the boot for a case or two.  Our Spanish friend won’t have to stay long.  In a few days the entire container-load will be sold, he’ll return to Spain …. only to return when he’s loaded up again.

When he departs for the last time at the end of the season, we’ll know for sure that spring has arrived.

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday: a chance to go down Memory Lane and give an older post an airing.

A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet

Ariège, Blogging challenges, Festivals

It’s time for a visit to my French archive once more – any excuse to get out of post-election UK.  Come and enjoy a traditional British Christmas, as explained to the residents of the small town next to ours when we lived in France.

December 6th, 2011 

A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet

A British living room comes to Lavelanet library.A good old-fashioned English Christmas has come early to Lavelanet.  To the library (oops, mediathèque) to be exact.  The librarian there enjoys children’s literature, and is a bit of an Anglophile.  So she’s mounting a small festival of English Children’s literature featuring everyone from John Burningham and Quentin Blake to – of course – Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter.

What a disappointment I am to her.  I can’t produce a pretty tea set awash with rosebuds, and she can’t believe I really don’t like tea very much: and that when I do drink it, I decline to add milk.

She’s wheeled in Découverte des Terres Lointaines to help with all the activities for schools, retirement homes, and the general public.  And DTL have wheeled me in as Consultant on All Matters English. Together we’ve chosen recipes and we’re baking biscuits and cakes and we’ve planned craft activities round, for instance, our ‘so British’ Christmas cards.  But said cards must contain no bible-story references.  No stables, cribs, angels or Three Wise Men. French schools are strictly laïque – secular – and our friends were astonished to learn that even the mantelpieces of committed atheists are likely to feature Christmas cards from friends, showing church stained glass windows or the Star of Bethlehem.

From tomorrow, I’ll be reading stories in English, helping pull crackers (an unknown treat), and unpacking – many times – a stocking which dear old Father Christmas has delivered to me early.

A satisfyingly bulging stocking.

My other job is to correct the misapprehensions learnt from French websites and children’s books about England. Who knew that the English enjoy tucking in to a huge plate of oysters at the beginning of Christmas dinner? Or that all British schoolchildren have a free bottle of milk every morning?  Margaret Thatcher abolished that back in the early 70’s.  And Sylvia misunderstood me, and thought we served stewed cherries, not sherry sauce, with our Christmas pudding (cherries – sherry: easy to confuse when you speak no English).  And so on.

But it’s been fun transforming the community room in the library into an impossibly cosy snug, full of Christmas cheer.  Let’s see what ‘le tout public’ think, when we open the doors tomorrow.

Six Word Saturday.

 

A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet

Ariège, Festivals, Food & Cooking

A homely Christmas at Lavelanet library

A good old-fashioned English Christmas has come early to Lavelanet.  To the library (oops, mediathèque) to be exact.  The librarian there enjoys children’s literature, and is a bit of an Anglophile.  So she’s mounting a small festival of English Children’s literature featuring everyone from John Burningham and Quentin Blake to, of course, Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter.

What a disappointment I am to her.  I can’t produce a pretty tea set awash with rosebuds, and she can’t believe I really don’t like tea very much: and that when I do drink it, I decline to add milk.

Look what father Christmas left!

She’s wheeled in Découverte des Terres Lointaines to help with all the activities for schools, retirement homes, and the general public.  And DTL have wheeled me in as Consultant on All Matters English. Together we’ve chosen recipes and we’re baking biscuits and cakes and we’ve planned craft activities round, for instance, our ‘so British’ Christmas cards.  From tomorrow, I’ll be reading stories in English, helping pull crackers, and unpacking – many times – a stocking which dear old Father Christmas has delivered to me early.

Mass production of gingerbread men

My other job is to correct the misapprehensions learnt from French websites and children’s books about England. Who knew that the English enjoy tucking in to a huge plate of oysters at the beginning of Christmas dinner? Or that all British schoolchildren have a free bottle of milk every morning?  Margaret Thatcher abolished that back in the early 70’s.  And Sylvia misunderstood me, and thought we served stewed cherries, not sherry sauce, with our Christmas pudding (cherries – sherry: easy to confuse when you speak no English).  And so on.

But it’s been fun transforming the community room in the library into an impossibly cosy snug, full of Christmas cheer.  Let’s see what ‘le tout public’ think, when we open the doors tomorrow.

Rather a lot of marmalade cake

Open Day at the Lycée

Ariège, Harrogate

Having had three children, I’m no stranger to school open days.  City life meant they had access to any number of High Schools, so between the three of them, over the years I’ve been to Open Days at: Abbey Grange; City of Leeds; Granby;  Harrogate Grammar; Intake; Lawnswood; Pudsey Grangefield; Pudsey  Priesthorpe; Rossett; St. Aidan’s, and probably a few others as well.  You’d think that would be enough.  But no.

Today we had the chance to see the Lycée des Métiers J-M Jacquard in Lavelanet at work when it threw open its doors.  We couldn’t resist.

It was like none of the above.  I’ve not been to a school before where pupils trundled round a huge loading bay in forklift trucks, moving pallets of goods into a ‘shop’ area where they practiced using computerized stock control.  They’re the Logistics students.  In another department, white-coated teenagers in white rubber shoes conducted experiments into water purity, or calculated how much salt a particular water source would need to optimize dishwasher use.  They’re destined for the Water Processing & Treatment Industry when they leave school. In an enormous modern factory type space, several boys and one lone girl were applying their new skills to the Maintenance of Industrial Equipment.

Somehow, I don’t think any of my three would have wanted to be there – though they might have enjoyed driving the forklift trucks.

Of course, all the usual core lessons go on too – though no music, art or drama, and Mal and I had fun in an English class (none of those students wanted to be there, either).  Their teacher was showing them pictures of the sights of London, and she encouraged us to help her prise English words and phrases from their reluctant lips.

By English standards, it’s a small school – maybe some 500 students (and all aged over 14). You might guess that there are about twice as many boys as girls.  About 100 are weekly boarders, coming from as far away as Albi, almost 200 km. away.  We inspected small dormitories and games rooms, which seemed curiously impersonal spaces for teenagers who spend their evenings there.  In fact the whole school was a bit like that.  It was impressive – wonderfully equipped with every technological gizmo; polite, helpful and enthusiastic staff and students; views of the Pyrénées . The focus in this Lycée is preparing for the world of work, and there’s no room for the displays of pupils’ work, the pictures on the wall, the school Annual Production, that are typical of an English High School.

But it’s clearly a happy and successful school, and we’re glad to have had the chance of a glimpse through its open doors.