Tag Archives: France

Languedoc Vine Report. Wednesday 26th March 2014

A great year ahead?

This week’s Wednesday Vine Report is full of surprises. When you see my photographs you won’t believe the difference when compared with last year.

I hope to bring you regular reports as before. Since I was hit by a car in December, I have developed a painful condition which I won’t bore you with here. Suffice it to say sometimes I won’t be able to get out into the vineyards.

Watching for first signs

Remember how last year I eagerly waited for first signs of growth on the vines?

Vine Report 2013

how it looked last year

Dry sticks was all we had to look at last year at this time. I was looking to choose a particular vine so that I could follow its progress throughout the year. Mademoiselle Merlot became the choice and I’ve grown rather attached to her. Silly, I know, but I don’t want to be unfaithful. She’s going to feature in this year’s vine reports too.

Here’s the Merlot field this week after the mildest winter weather I’ve experienced since moving to France.

Vine Report 2014

not pruned yet but already sprouting

Today we have welcome light rain. There hasn’t been much of it. Growers depend on the fourteen days of downpour we can normally expect spread throughout late March and April. It hasn’t happened yet. In my last Vine Report, I showed how the grower of the Chardonnay vines has recently installed a watering system

So here are those Chardonnay vines.

Vine Report March 2014

going crazy!!

This photograph was taken on March 20th after a neighbour had told me I had better get up there and have a look. She knew I’d been looking out for first signs of growth again this year and I think she was rather pleased with herself that she’d beaten me to it. However, judging by this amount of growth, we’d both missed the first sprouting by at least two weeks.

Is this year’s harvest already a whole month ahead of last year?

Maybe it’s too soon to say. Maybe we wouldn’t want to tempt fate by saying so. (Languedoc is full of superstitions)

But it looks that way to me. There’s very little danger of late frosts in this part of France. Besides, now that the rain has begun I think we’ll move right along into an early summer.

So, come along ladies. Do your stuff.

Languedoc Vines 2014

lovely ladies!

Thank you for visiting my website. There’s lots more to read here and it’s all free!

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Till next time,





24 hours without internet. The joys of living in France


A whole day!


Twenty four hours without the internet. 24 whole hours!

The Gollum Boy (see earlier post ) began pacing as soon as he got home from school. What? No internet? How could anybody DO THIS TO HIM? Didn’t they know he had an appointment with Syndicate on YouTube?

He had to resort to the X-Box WITHOUT KiNECT. Saints preserve us! Saint Louise, actually on the fifteenth of March. Saint Louise of the Daughters of Charity, the ones who used to wear those huge starched cornettes on their heads that made them look like seagulls. Her saint’s day is the fifteenth of March. It says so on my calendar.

Not the Ides of March! Oh, Blimey, I’ve just realized. We lost our phone and internet connection on the Ides of March. It must have been an omen. Well, we live along the Via Domitia, don’cha know. Julius Caesar passed this way on his way to Spain. You can hear the ghostly legions tramping by in their skirts and sandals. No, that’s Gollum Boy, tramping by on his way to raid the fridge. He has a face like a wet weekend and his eyes are like slits. (He’s still very grey, by the way, but he has had a wash.)

So, what can one do when all the connections are down? One could go for a walk. One could read a few chapters. One could learn a new recipe. One could watch a movie on TV. One could go for a walk. One could read a few chapters. One could . . .


Oh, No!


The truth is, we’ve all got so used to having these connections at our fingertips, we take them for granted. And, I believe, we allow them too much say in our lives.

One of the joys of living in a small French village is that, from time to time, we are thrust into a past when such household commodities didn’t exist. In any case, what use would winegrowers and their fieldworkers have had for such things? Their days were already full of working to earn a living. Now, the winegrowers’ grandchildren have laptops and X boxes and Playstations and tablets and smartphones and none of them want to follow grandpa into viticulture. No. They want to be the next Syndicate. The next #1 Solo Gamer.

But they can’t all be number 1, can they? At some point, they’ll have to start paying their way. Give unto Caesar etc. We’ve let this internet stuff take over our lives. Its marching through our homes and families like the legions of the Roman Empire.

Well, we all know what happened to that, don’t we?

The trouble is, how will I keep up with Twitter and Facebook and Linkedin and my website when the Internet Empire collapses?

Cherry blossom

Hanami comes to Languedoc with many trees in blossom

They do it properly in Japan. People welcome tree blossom. They pack picnics and take the whole family out to sit beneath burgeoning cherries and plum trees. They really make a point of going out especially to see the blossom.

Here, in Languedoc, we have beautiful flowering trees. First, you get the almonds. They can flower any time from late January onwards. They’re about past their best now, but for several weeks they’ve powdered the lanes through the vineyards with their baby pink set against cobalt winter skies.

Then comes Mimosa. You can smell it as soon as you step outside. A photo of my neighbour’s old tree is one of the random headings I use on my website pages. (All the headers are adapted from my own photographs.)


February mimosa in full bloom



Just outside my gate, there’s a small square full of flowering cherry. You simply HAVE to take notice of them. If you don’t, you’ll miss the display. The Tramontane will get up, blowing over the Pyrenees, bringing with it sharp blasts of icy air from still snow-covered peaks.



The highest peak of the Pyrenees visible from where I live

By the time the Tramontane has rushed over the top of these peaks, it stabs you like ice-cold daggers. It blows in threes, the locals tell you. If the wind goes into a fourth day, you can guarantee there’ll be six.



inundations can flood the vines

Or the Marin will blow you a hooley from the Mediterranean and there will be mist and more rain than you thought the sky could hold.  At the end of it, there’ll be no blossom left to admire.

Flowering cherry

Baby pink blossom

Beautiful things are often fleeting, so I’m glad I made the small effort of standing outside my garden gate to take this picture while the blossom is at its best.

The Last Red Day cutting costs at suppertime

In a previous post I talked about Red Days here in France and how much they cost us. Extortionate amounts of money. Last night, we celebrated the last Red Day of the winter. Here’s what we cooked on the one gas ring of a Camping Gaz stove.


mussels in cream sauce

Those mussels were big as a dog’s doodahs. Not that I’ve ever eaten a dog’s whatsits, but, you know, just to give you an idea of the size of the things. I cooked them in shallots and white wine, garlic, cream and finely chopped rosemary, thyme,oregano and basil. There was plenty of bread to mop up afterwards.

single gas ring

cutting costs

I sent out a call on my Facebook page for ideas for Red Day Recipes. I’m looking for one-pot, cheapskate dinners, cooked in a jiffy on a little ring like this:

TROBAIRITZ. Who were they?


Trobairitz songs were called cansos

Trobairitz were troubadours. Female troubadours. They sang songs and poems about love, tradition and current affairs. Their songs were called cansos. Their language was Occitan – the language that gave its name to the region of southern France where they lived and worked.

Langue means language.

Langue d’Occitan became Languedoc

The region of Languedoc stretches across southern France from west to east.

This where the Trobairitz came from.  This is the area they covered when they travelled in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Not much is known about them. Very few of their songs remain.

Trobairitz Azalais de Porciragues

Azalais came from Portiragnes

Azalais de Porciragues lived in the twelfth century. Her home town is called Portiragnes now and is a popular beach resort in the summer.

Women like Azalais were strong and independent. It’s thought they must have had their own means to support their lifestyles.

This is where I live. The departments might have slightly different names now, but the rivers are all in the same place and the mountains funnel the winds as they always did.

land of the Trobairitz

land of the Trobairitz

Languedoc is a land of tradition and superstition. Its people love the Arts: it’s in their genes. This is where I’m writing about a twenty first century Trobairitz. She has stories to tell. About love, tradition and current affairs. Her name is Weed. Like the Trobairitz of old, she’s strong and independent. She has her own means to support her lifestyle. She travels the land of the troubadours in her truck. She tells her stories at an overnight truck stop.


Edit: Book One – Trobairitz – the Storyteller is available on Amazon from Friday 28th November 2014.

Food, wine and friends

helping hands

helping hands at the Chinese New Year table

I love this picture. I think it sums up the essence of what our Chinese New Year celebration was about.

We had emergency chairs and borrowed chairs. We had guests bringing starters and desserts. We didn’t stop eating till almost eleven pm.

I didn’t write anything all weekend and it doesn’t matter.

13th Red Day

Our electricity tariff in France is what we inherited when we bought the house. It’s called Tempo. You need a university degree to understand how it works. There are Red Days, White Days and Blue Days and within each price band there’s a cheaper night rate that kicks in at ten pm. A forecast box on the wall in our utility room tells us what to expect for the morrow. From November onwards, it’s a house rule to check the forecast.DSCN0087

White Days equate to standard charges. Blue Days are cheap rate all day long. They come in summer when you don’t want any heating and it’s too damned hot to cook anyway. Red Days, though. Oh, Red Days. There are twenty-two of them spread through the winter months. Red Days are when you switch off all the lights. Red Days are when you hope somebody invites you out to dinner. On Red Days, we bring in the camping gas stove and set it up on the hob. We don’t use the electric kettle or the dishwasher or the washing machine and tumble dryer, or the vacuum or the iron. We don’t have on the computer and the television. We eat stir-frys and anything else that cooks quickly in one pan. Red Days’ electricity costs ten times the cheap rate.

The upside of all this is

a)    Red Days are a good excuse not to do any housework.

b)   On summer Blue Days you can afford to put on the air-conditioning

c)    By law, our supplier can’t give us a Red Day on Sundays or Bank Holidays.

d)   It’s rather nice sitting by the log fire in a room lit by candles

The downside of all this is

a)    I spend all day Sunday washing, drying and ironing

b)   I’ve taken to wearing winceyette pyjamas and taking a hot water bottle to bed

c)    You can’t read by candlelight

d)   Dinners can be a bit boring

With this last in mind, an idea for a book comes to mind. Red Day Dinners. Now, how would I pitch that?

First of all, I’d have to ask friends to donate recipes. I’m no great shakes in the kitchen. My greatest culinary strength is the one handed down by my mother: never waste anything. Throw it all in a pan and fry it up. The results can be surprisingly tasty, even if they are an odd colour. If the colour turns out too obnoxious, you crack in a couple of eggs.

See, there’ll probably be an expert out there who knows how to use a steamer on the one gas ring of a camping stove to cook a whole three course meal. I think I might manage two: warmed up leftovers in the bottom and a steamed slab of chocolate cake in the top. Voilà. And there we have it. Celia’s Simple Red Day Supper. Perhaps I should rethink the title of that book!

But, I’ve neglected to mention what’s happening outside on Red Days. It’s cold. It’s very cold. It’s a dry kind of cold that feels like daggers in your eyes. The wind slices through your clothes as if it’s trying to rip them from your back. Huge cedars and sky-piercing cypresses rock and sway  and the distant mountains have done some overnight magic. The peaks are covered in snow. In the crystal light of a Red Day, they seem closer than ever, majestic against that winter blue sky, rock faces glowing pink at sunset.

Birds gather each morning on the top of a neighbour’s television aerial. They sit in tight rows and speculate on the day before they fly off to eat. At four thirty every afternoon, there they are, back on the aerial again before dusk summons them to roost.

Only 9 more Red Days to go.