Autumn is in the air down here at Ste Colombe, signalled by chilly early mornings and plumes of wood-smoke drifting upwards into a blue sky as my neighbours fire up their stoves. Yet before long, the sun is up, breaching the shadows in the courtyard of my house and the über-snails retreat to the coolness of crevices in the stone walls whilst the lizards come out to play hide and seek between the gnarly wisteria branches.
Although the summer frolics of festivities and fêtes are over and the grape harvest is underway it is now time to pay homage to humble fruit and vegetables and so we have celebrations of the virtues of onions, garlic, apples, sweet chestnuts and even the lowly spud. At these fêtes you can wonder at the sheer variety, sample the goodies and buy, buy, buy ‘til your purse drains dry.
Yesterday was the fête de chataigne (the sweet chestnut fair) together with a vide-grenier (car boot sale),fairground stalls and the obligatory oomph-pa band. The vide-grenier was a large one and clearly sellers had enthusiastically ransacked every cupboard, cellar, attic and barn . Clothes, toys, books and CDs, old tools, kitchenware, granny’s favourite coffee set, painstakingly embroidered bed-linen – if you could name it, you would find it. So it was that an old wooden vinegar barrel, two sets of wall lights, a pressed glass lampshade and a ceramic cafetière found themselves in the back of big bro’s van and on their way to Petite Rue.
Later in the day, in sweltering heat, the sweet chestnuts were roasting and a tray-full of artisan bread baked over an open fire filling the air with a mouth-watering savoury aroma. However it was the sweet stall that attracted my attention. Goodies of all shapes and sizes, in the most garish array of colours and oozing with sugar – were they as wild in taste as they were in appearance? Was it enough to tempt this gal to abandon her quest to discover her lost waistline? Did she fall by the wayside and give in? Well that’d be telling.