Still in our Garret at the delightful French hilltop village, Sancerre.
There’s this wedge of Roquefort Cheese moving about our village of Sancerre. From Garret to Garret. Its currently lodged in a small smell proof container in the back of our fridge. It started life, was born, nurtured, moulded in the Froggy village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Then, discarded by its Roquefort family, orphaned, it found its way to Thursday mornings market at Saint-Satur. That’s the somewhat scruffy spreadeagled village at the foot of the hill pimple that finds Sancerre perched on top. Roquefort is the BIG CHEESE of stinky cheeses together with Stilton and Gorgonzola.
One needs a bank loan to buy into the Roquefort Club and obtain a slice of stink. Its Linda the Canadian schoolgirls fault. She wizzed her way thru a weeks course of learn to speak Froggy at Sancerre’s Coeur De France Language School. Then she, Linda, please pay attention, try and concentrate for ******* sake, started all this off by purchasing ‘the’ slice of Roquefort at the aforesaid market. A smelly pressy for her son in England. Then finding she needed to decamp from her first floor Sancerre Garret, with the cheese, to Bronwens/Jans Sancerre Garret where she inadvertently, left it behind the next day. This change in Garret due to Ghengis Khan’s Brewery workers posing as festival musicians, setting up outside her Garret last Friday week, to serenade her and the wider village until 2am. Linda was no Rapunzel. Her hair was too short.
I tried a slice or two of the Roquefort having never been able to before due to financial pressures and not wanting to sell the Mini Cooper. My taste buds liked the Roquefort but as the cheese slid down my internal gravity operated elevators, from ‘Mouth/Tongue’ floor, to where my gut Orchestra had been playing for over a week, Peer Gynts soft melodious harmonic ‘Morning’, the Attila the Hun bacteria in the Roquefort turned nasty. They commenced to rape, pillage and put to the sword all Peer Gynts good bacteria orchestra members. I had a new Petri dish down there. My gut orchestra started playing ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee’ combined at times with ‘Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture’. It took three days for that orchestra to be dislodged and Peer Gynt to return.
Later, realising that we had an active slice of Plutonium in the back of our fridge, we tried to handball the Roquefort onto Alex aka Alexandra, another of Sancerre’s Language School ‘schoolgirls’. She refused to accept as being an Ozy from Victorian, had heard of Roquefort, Petri Dishes and the damage that Vladimir of the Russian Politburo, had caused with Plutonium in Salisbury England.
Way back in time, this many many centuries ago before we had nasties in the world like Plutonium, Donalds, Kim Jong-Uns, Vladimir’s, MacDonalds and Australian Politicians, French legend has it that there was a young sheep herder Pierre. He eking out a very basic living with his Mama and Papa in the French alps, Alpes Cote D’Azur. One day, just before lunch, he’s wearing his new Spec Saver’s, he spots in the distance a beautiful girl. He immediately abandoned his sheep, his lunch of a Baguette and Ewes Cheese into a cave, it was just there, and he ran smickedy dick in his worn leather jodhpurs to meet the beautiful girl Sophie. Isn’t that typical of Froggy workers downing tools and not coming back. For Pierre did not return for near a year as he had to sit with his new baby. When he did return, he found that his very ordinary sheep’s cheese had morphed, due to the cave bacterium, ta dum, Penicillium Roquefort, into a tasty, but stinky gut orchestra upsetting cheese. The legend does not include what happened to his sheep nor whether his Mama and Papa were pleased that he had lost their SSF. Sheep Superannuation Fund.
It was such a different cheese that on 4 June 1411, Frances Charles VI gave monopoly rights to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon and even today, that monopoly still applies with strict regulations as to how the bacterium is produced. The sheep’s milk used must be from the Lacoune breed of sheep. Its Frances’ second most popular cheese after Comte. Comte is a solid, tasty, not overbearing cheese from cows milk which does not feel the need to establish a Petri dish in your gut. Don’t overindulge thow!!
Alex, the new French Language Schoolgirl on the block, wasn’t offended by us offering her a wedge of Plutonium masked as Roquefort cheese, apparently, because she invited She, my Bride, and Moi, to travel with her the 3.5 K’s to another French village, Chavignol. Alex has a U Bewt hire car. A Toyota Hybrid with the rear door handles set up on the cars roof as the designer’s pencil slipped. Or its cheaper to put them there. Or kids cannot reach them and cry. Pick one. Thus, on a foggy morn, our first at Sancerre although when I was living at a Construction Camp at North West Cape, Gascoyne area of West Oz, I had many Foggy Morns. You are running off the rails again sonny boy. Concentrate. ‘Sorry Mum’. So, there we are at 1130am off to Chavignol having to be back by 1330 hours as the two schoolgirls, Alex and Sue, have to be back for their afternoon class. A short but extremely pleasant drive. Down Sancerre’s pimple, left turn, west, and onto a fairly narrow road twisting and weaving its way down into and along a narrow valley with high hills each side like huge ocean waves. Covered tip to toe in vines all so steep that no mechanical grape harvesting could possibly take place. Again, as we find near Sancerre, the vines look scrappy, not having reached adulthood and the white, creamy soil shows thru the vines as though they, the vines, are starving. With the mist it seems somehow surreal like a Monet watercolour in the mist. This is the Valley of the Stream of the Colette. A magical name for a magical valley even though I looked for the stream, but no see.
The Hamlet of Chavignol is not large enough to be a village nor a commune. Its far too small. Therefore, under French law it’s a Hamlet of currently 130 people whereas in 1891, it had 499. But by crikey, this place is ALIVE. It’s a ‘working village’ of vignerons and goats cheese makers. People are bustling about, they are not tourists, I can tell. Youngish locals sit between shifts, having ciggies outside the 3 star Hotel-Restaurant, ‘The Hill of Dammed Mountains’. There’s a hill come aspiring mountain just over there called Damm. All about, the Hamlet is neat, tidy, new road paving, kerbing, a fountain, houses lining the roadside are all tizzied up, fresh paint on the rendered walls, window and door surrounds, many wide timber cellar doors, stonework not wobbly, brisk business premises and as the Rue rises up to the church of Saint Andrew, there on the right is a swish looking wine room. The Wine ‘Cave’ of Henri Bourgeois, its design equal to or surpassing many of those of Margaret River, Barossa and the Hunter Valley. It’s a compact layout, auto entry sliding glass doors, inside to the left, that way, four glass fronted cabinets full of the areas differing soil, stories about the nuances in the wine that soil produces, tasting tables, wine racks, floor in large cream slate slabs, walls painted in a Pinot Noir come muted Ruby Red, the ceiling beams close together leading one’s eye to a narrow skylight the length of the smallish space. Its bloody marvellous.
Forget what I said about buying a Maison in Sancerre, come buy here. Drink wine, eat goat’s cheese, chew on a Baguette, smoke Gauloises. Learn to cough and speak Froggy with a lilting rhapsodic hurried voice. And if you are not too worn out with all that, have an affair’e with Maybelle the goat. Sorry, forgot about the LBTYxxzzz crowd and so, with Marcel the goat. PIck one.
I exited the ‘wine cave’ as Alex and Sue set about tasting, sniffing, getting crushed ants, fresh mown hay and cherry blossom on the front of the palate whereas at the back, its plonk. It was all too much for me as I escaped outside and uphill to Saint Andrews Church where the bells are dinging noon. A side door is open, the dinging man is inside, and I’m in for a shooftee. Built in 1859 it’s a moody, dark, sombre church with at the far end some colourful stained glass. These, apparently, are a set of ten Hagiographic Windows which tell the story in glass form, of Saints live’s. An autobiography if you like, and if you don’t, tough. Sorry XX.
We motored back to Sancerre via Amigny another smaller village, not a Commune, not a Village nor Hamlet but a Lilliputian. Alex, our host and driver got lost as she meant to drive us up to the top of Mount Damm to have a squiz. Must have been the Perrier water at our Au P’tit Gouter Chavignol restaurant lunch, where I played safe with my Peer Gynt Orchestra and had an omelette. With a glis of ‘Bebe Wisky’ spelt just like that but waiter Gasparde, got confused, or I did as I’m certifiable, and he brought me the ‘Geant Bebe Wisky’. Cripes, a near full tall ‘Giant’ glass of 40% pure ‘Wisky’ of doubtful parentage. Dear me sonny boy, thats a bit much whisky. ‘Yes I know Mum, I could have effin well, sorry Mum, left it, but I am a piggy. Just like Dad. Would you like to share a bowl of warm Giblets?’
Back in our Garret, the bride eagerly trots off uphill to be swallowed by the doors of language school, Couer de France. I have a sorta sooky nanny nap to relieve the pressure of retired life, to unburden in dreams my misguided exuberance of age and the effects of a ‘Geant Bebe Wisky’.
Arriving home to our Garret about 5.15pm after school lessons, my bride informs me that the prisoner in our fridge, Roquefort, encapsulated in a small sealed container, is to travel on with us from France to England. It’s to be a pressie for my Brides long ago and still friends, Nigel and Fiona formerly of Victoria Oz, who now live near Tunbridge Wells south of London. She, my lovely Susan, met and bonded with them from her days spent in a previous manifestation of her life. Judging by the stink of Roquefort, that friendship may be put to the test. As will they, Nigel and Fiona, trying to reconcile why somebody nice and lovely like Sue, would have a reprobate like Moi tagging along. He he he.
Au revoir un A bientot – La Susan 😘 and her cheese Diz 🧀.