As I have already written, France closes down at midday for a two hour "snoozette" (as our delightful host Kay calls it). The total sense of that has become so very apparent since the onset of the very hot weather that we have been experiencing here in the south. We have been out walking at 7am for an hour, then we collect our fresh baguette and croissant, and retreat to the relative coolness of the thick-walled apartment. By 10am, the temperature has already skyrocketed to the late twenties with the peak coming late afternoon - somewhere between 33oC and 38oC, accompanied over the past week by a humidity of 60 - 70%! While that may feel to our New Zealand friends as bliss at the moment, I can tell you that any will to do anything past lying on the bed under the ceiling fan, vanishes! No - there is no air conditioning in these old French villages. The authorities do not allow the exteriors of their heritage buildings to be sullied by the unsightly backs of AC units. If you buy one of these beautiful heritage buildings for around $NZ200,000 and then work with council rules that make NZ councils look like child's play, you have to be aware that hot days are just that. Consequently, there have been reports of hugely increased electricity usage, as people turn on every fan in the house, us included.
As a result of the heat and the proximity of our only door to the street, we have been entertained by the comings and goings of most of the village, our street being one of the main thoroughfares. I have a dastardly plan for silencing for ever, the young lads that constantly roar up the street on very noisy dirt bikes on their way home from the "ecole" around the corner. The old gentleman, who Les has dubbed "Lord Mayor", takes his stroll up to the corner every morning with a scowl on his face, checking all the houses on his way. Les has not yet managed to elicit a response to his "bonjour"! But by far the most interesting passersby are the large variety of tractors and assorted agricultural vehicles which use our road as their access to the fields on the edge of the village. While things are relatively quiet at the moment, part of me is sad that we won't be here to witness the chaos of vintage in September. To clarify things a little, wines are not named here by grape variety as they are in New Zealand, which means that the thousands of vines here in the Languedoc Rousillon region (the biggest concentration in France) are either AOC (very specific grapes in very specific quantities and pressed within their own chateaux) or they are Vins du Pays (collected from many growers and pressed in the village Co-op).Tales abound of mayhem as farmers race their fragile loads of grapes to the village co-operative on the far side of town. The fact that our street is one way - GOING OUT OF TOWN - seems to mean little at that time of year, because to go via the correct one-way street INTO town is a longer run. Consequently we are told, there is many a very loud altercation during the process. The French speak loudly at the best of times with many hand gestures. Apparently this grows to such volume during harvest that most villagers know about every dispute. The funniest, but also one of the most serious, we have heard happened a couple of years ago when one farmer had decided he had waited long enough to dump his crop into the hopper at the co-op, so he did the unthinkable - he tried to jump the queue. Now the French are not the greatest of queuers, as we have found out when patiently waiting our turn at the marche! However, jumping the co-op queue is apparently beyond the pall! The said farmer was hauled from his tractor amid a lot of Gallic yelling and swearing, and somehow found himself being shoved into the hopper with his grapes :-( Fortunately for him, there is an automatic cut-off switch which kicked in before he met the mashing teeth at the bottom. You can be assured that this incident hasn't been forgotten - memories here last a long time and vengeance, as they say, is best taken on an empty stomach!!