There is a house in Occitanie, beneath the Albères Mountains. We began our visits in the seventies, always in summer, when colours are heated to intensity and every breath draws in the scent of herbs.
We rose early, enlivened by the sun, to set off on the Bread Walk, down a dusty rust-red path, past the ancient church of Notre Dame de Tanya and on to the entrance to the allotments.
A cherry tree dropped willing fruits into our hands. Watercourses rushed gurgling between a patchwork of small lots where the smell of onions vied with the sweet air of oleander draping the fence. Beans and peas in bloom climbed wigwams of cane; courgettes blew their orange trumpets. Small vines divided each patch and as the path skittered to an end the humbler vegetables thronged together: carrots and turnips, leeks in rows fresh and ready for the stockpot, the mother of so many dishes.
Ranks of rosemary marked the allotment boundary where a rocky path led upwards. It was shaded by a fig tree, promising Autumn splendour; soon the ground would be black with fallen fruit and lopsided birds, drunk on the fermenting juices.
First on the village street was the shoe shop Two pairs of faded sandals were flanked by a ponderous white cat, blissfully asleep behind the hot glass. Sensing a presence, she opened one eye then returned, unimpressed, to her nap.
The queue outside the boulangerie exchanged the day’s gossip then passed it over the counter along with their centimes. We waited till the scandal ran out, happy to be transported by an aroma like no other – that home-coming, hunger-ripening smell of new bread. We bought two baguettes and 6 croissants light enough to float into the bag.
Home for breakfast in the sun, past the dozing cat, the fig tree, the allotments, the Chapel.
Here in my shielding confinement I tread each step, breathe the fragrance, feel the sun’s hot rays.
- Submitted by Pat Sutherland, 79, Glasgow