Reader, we ate them. The spotted apples on the tree on the short walk outside Nontron. On the winding road near the stream, the little apple tree just there, as pastoral a picture as you could hope for. I wish I’d taken a photo now. I remembered those lines from Big Yellow Taxi:

Hey farmer farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Please! 

And they were sweet and abundant, some were already on the ground and fading into it. Not long after that we came across a tree with tiny little ridged berries and Padraig said we had them in Ireland too, and they did look familiar, and different, because they weren’t round. He couldn’t remember the name for a while and then he did: the spindle, and that they were poisonous, and then we passed some mistletoe, clinging on to the branches of an oak and I asked what did the word mistle mean and John thought it was a kind of berry. That led us to the mistle thrush and I wondered if it got its name from eating berries and that we’d have them soon in Ireland along with their northern cousins the fieldfares and redwings.

img_6288-copy

The birds that took most of our attention were the big raptors, the buzzards and kites. Partly because they were quite prevalent and also because they are so apparent – they fly high and they glide around, not a care in the world, apart from the odd bit of hassle from rooks. In fairness the French hunters don’t seem to shoot them nor the farmers poison them. We have buzzards now in Ireland and they’ve come as far south as Cork, but no kites that I’ve ever seen anyway. So it was a pleasure to be walking with them above us.

The bird that made the most ruckus by far was the jay. They’re not quiet or reserved, in fact the prehistoric pterodactyl screech they make would wake the dead – they make magpies seem agreeable, rooks sound melodic. These are old sounds, almost as old as the trees themselves. You rarely see them, or if you do, it’s just their tails as they fly up into a grove. But you can’t fail to hear them, that’s for sure.

Earlier, we’d passed through a little farm-yard, and it was like something out of a Nineteenth Century impressionist bucolic painting. The path just turned at a house and there was no dog or car, just some hens and chicks and a few rabbits in hutches, and there was no sound of machinery, and the walls of the house were old and the roof was tiled and the barn had seen many’s the year of hay – it seemed to me that it hadn’t changed in decades – and the path was cobbled, but in a natural way as if the stones were just there and the road hadn’t been built at all, but were found underneath, or if they were put there, it was by the Gauls a very long time ago.

img_6291

We did a small bit of a second loop, around more farms and a lot of them seem to have donkeys. This fellow was a handsome strong specimen with the usual cross on his back from carrying Jesus into Jerusalem and the was white around his eyes and mouth and I asked the others who had gone a little ahead if all donkeys had such colouring and Der said the John had asked the same question and then he told a Billy Connolly joke:

A fellow walks into the bar and there are a few drinkers at the counter and the barman is calling one of them ‘donkey’. It’s all ‘hey donkey, did you hear this’ and ‘hey donkey, I see Liverpool lost again’ and so on and the man thinks this is very rude and he doesn’t like it. So he goes over the man and says to him: ‘hey, that’s not very nice, him calling you donkey like that, why do you put up with it?’ And the man says: ‘sure he aw- he aw- he aw- he always calls me that’.

And we laugh and wander back down to the town.

That evening Padraig cooked steak on the plancha that M. Besson provided for us and, as usual we stand around out front for a drink before dinner while the sun is still shining and then we go inside to eat and talk and we ate well every night and listened to music and talked. We bought some very nice Bergerac wines in a cave in the town to go with the steak, and enjoyed the way that the backing singers for Marianne rose up a little at the end and how late Cohen came in after them and then we went outside and looked at the stunning array of stars, and listened to owls calling to each other in the distance, a sound we don’t hear at home. A sound to be glad of, in the night.

 

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Hey farmer farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Please!

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s