I dug this paragraph out from my writings years ago when Marion was just 1 year old and it reminds me of many of those tiny cultural differences that I suppose I now take for granted.
We wake up reeking of the raw onion on the dressing table …..Amatxi’s solution for Marion’s cough. It works but we reek! As I carry her down the stairs of my renovated Basque sheep shed, situated high up in the Spanish Pyrenees, we indulge in our game of bell guessing. I say it’s a herd of horses but, when we look beyond the gate, Marion cries ‘MOO’ . I am wrong. Bell culture here is fascinating. Every animal, every herd is different.
After breakfast we take a plum and blackberry crumble to Sagrario´s on the neighbouring farm. It is just a 5 minute walk away. My neighbours go crazy for crumble (lemon curd, chedder cheese and Thai curries also go down well in the hamlet) – and I promise to help Sagrario make one for the fiestas next July. We walk through carpets of sheep’s droppings and chestnuts, pass blackberry bushes and fig trees with Marion alternating exclamations of ‘NAN NAN’ and ‘CACA,’ (Basque: FOOD and POO).
It doesn’t matter that we reek of onions. Sagrario’s house reeks of cows. They practise the old fashioned-farming system with the animals on the ground floor; their very own central heating system. One day I remember Sagrario exclaim ‘qué calor hace aqui’ and, where we would have reached to turn the thermostat, she simply popped downstairs to take the cows out. We have lunch with the extended family; thick vegetable soup, pork, potatoes (all off the farm) followed by strong home-made sheep’s cheese and crumble! The older men reminisce about their past, log cutting in France … the girls in the fiestas and while Luis, Sagrario´s single brother-in-law fills my glass with local wines, I solve his future by playing Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor with the damson stones on his plate!