Monday, July 30, 2012

L'Amicale des Léranais = rough translation: The Léran Association

   OK, two months since the last post. What can I say? A huge amount happened in that time so what I'll do, movie style, is start in the recent past--the weekend just passed--and, through a series of (shot of calendar pages being returned to the calendar) flashbacks, tell you a little about what we've been up to.
   So, Sunday. L'Amicale des Léranais is a new association formed by a group of people in our village. Its aim is to share memories, stories and--this being France--food and wine. We missed the first lunch event but heard that it was terrific so we were quick to sign up for yesterday's meal to "Fête la Saint Jacques". is the new go-to site for news in French about village life.
   Simple deal. The day began with a morning walk round the various oratoires--which the dictionary defines as "small chapels" and "wayside shrines". We didn't make that on account of a long dinner the night before that concluded with Irish whiskey. But we did manage to show up at noon for the aperitif offered by the Association. It never ceases to amaze me how frequently mairies and associations stump up for bottles of pastis and muscat, and crisps.
   The pamphlet that had shown up in our letter-box, hand-delivered like most village news, has asked us to bring what we could and to share it. Our basket held marinaded red peppers, chick peas with chorizo and a kilo of haricots verts roaring with garlic. The recipe basically is "steam beans just till crisp, soften tons of chopped garlic in olive oil, and combine. Because we're so close to Spain, I reckoned I could get away with tapas-y things.
   The street in front of the old mairie (soon to be the new library) had been barricaded at both ends, and long trestle tables and benches set up. About 70 people had registered. Baskets were unpacked, plates and cutlery set out, platters of fresh melon (impossibly sweet and juicy at this time of year) and tomato salad distributed. Sunflowers and scallop shells decorated the tables.
   Aperitifs, chat, a look at a photo of village children taken in 1936, and we all sat down to eat. Platters and bottles of wine went up and down the table. Cheeses were shared. Ladies brought around their homemade desserts--a gorgeous tarte au citron, flan, tira misu...the coffee urn was carried from table to table. A wine bottle with a hand-written label announcing "eau de vie" may have prompted the singing in Occitan, French, Spanish, English and a verse in Swahili. And then we all drifted home for naps and, in our case, a drive to a cricket match and a concert.
   I wish you could all have been there but, because you couldn't, here are some snapshots...
Give me a long table under the trees, quiches, salads, company and vases of sunflowers and I'm one happy girl.
Meet Monsieur Portet who will be 86 years old this coming October. He's a fluent speaker--and singer--of the regional dialect, Occitan.

 Village events involve all ages. Dressed in old-fashioned attire, these little sweethearts brought around slices of tougnol, a fennel-seed-spiked bread.

   Sunday ended here at our friends Perry and Colline's place about half an hour north of Léran. You're right, that is an Airstream trailer converted into a bar. Nearby, another Airstream has had its end opened up and made into an open kitchen. If this shiny bulbosity tickles your fancy, go to  and read how you can rent one of these beauties for a week. On the top of a hill with amazing views of the Pyrenees, they're in the most sublime spot you can imagine. Not to mention one of the quirkiest. Red double-decker bus, tick. London taxi, tick. Hot tub with mountain view, tick. Etch A Sketch games on the bar....
    We got there just as the cricket game was winding up. No big deal as we'd mostly gone along to reconnect with friends. Two of them--both from our village--are in the photo. On the right, singer and songwriter Fraser Anderson, just returned from a hugely successful six-week tour of the US and Canada. More about Fraser at 
    On the left, Alan Simmons who, as well as creating and nurturing our village choir, is a highly respected singer and writer of choral music. In fact, he'd been featured on the front page of La Dépêche, our local newspaper, that very day. 
    And yes, those are empty beer bottles in the foreground.
    Just realized that I never told you about the golden chair I've bought. Next post....