The Blue Beast Eleven

Friday, 10 May, 2002


The heavy rain that hammered against the bedroom window all night did not dampen my spirits. ‘Think of Annie’s lawn’, I kept telling myself. Leo zaps through all the TV channels looking for a more encouraging weather forecast as he doesn’t like the one he’s just seen. 

Sunday looks like it might be bright and sunny. A good day to visit the Bandas de Condom, the three day music festival that starts this evening. 

My race through France heading for Spain and a new life seems to have been brought up short. 

My perfect hosts wine and dine me then leave me alone at my laptop, popping in occasionally with cheeses and pates, bottles of local wine and olives and coffee and so on, asking how it’s going and generally ensuring that I will never want to leave. They are even providing me with lots of interesting adventures to write about.

The local cuisine is based on the duck, or more precisely, the liver of the duck. To fatten up the duck’s liver, the farmer’s wife puts the duck between her knees and force feeds it maize down its gullet, using a funnelled device. This is called the ‘gavage‘. They do the same with geese but not round here.

Les Gavages des Oies

This goes on for about three weeks and the ducks enjoy it so much they queue up at the farmer’s wife’s knees waiting impatiently for their turn. 

Then they die. 

I feel like I am being gavaged. Not between Annie’s knees but you know what I mean. Will I suffer the same fate?

We drove to Auch yesterday, to a restaurant that specialises in duck’s liver dishes. We had thin slices of fresh liver, seared on the outside but still soft inside (hence wobbly) and served with a rich, sweet, white wine sauce and grapes, accompanied by Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, a local sweet white wine made from grapes that have been allowed to shrivel into raisins whilst still on the vine. Delicious and incredibly rich. After that, veal sweetbreads, quail stuffed with pate, cheese and coffee with lots of flasks of local red wine. Around the next table were squeezed four enormous young men, with hands like shovels and necks like bullocks. The stars of the local rugby team were upping their calorie count.

It seemed like the proper thing to visit the cathedral after lunch, what with it being Ascension Day and all. The choir stalls were carved in the 15th century from oaks that had been immersed in the river for years to harden the wood. There were over 130 separate stalls, each one with a different depiction from the bible or mythology and intricately carved portraits. To think that it took the builders more than 50 years to complete the cathedral. 

We complain if the builder doesn’t send us an estimate within a month!

Driving back through the rain and gloom, I reflected on the differences between then and now. Who is simply chiselling a block of stone, who is building a cathedral?

Deep in thought…

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