It’s some years since I’ve been down to the Pays Basque; it was back in the days when communications were less sophisticated and it was a pleasure to get away from the phone. Now, well, I have a laptop and so in the absence of broadband up in the hills, I’ve made a few enquiries and discovered that the Hotels in St Palais have free Wi-Fi. I choose the one where I know Madame La Patronne and settle in, mouse in one hand, wine in the other. It’s creeping up past 34 degrees outside but the Hotel de la Paix is cool and, as its name suggests, peaceful; the perfect office.
I’ve been into the tabac and bought a couple of journals to appraise the voiture ancienne movement in this part of the world. I’m reliably informed, or at least the blank looks seem to indicate, that vintage cars are something of a rarity in this neck of the woods; I wonder why? The local taste is more for the Citroen DS, Peugeot 404 and Simcas; the Traction Avant in its various guises is as far back as they seem to want to go.
I notice that there is in one of the magazines a fascinating article describing the restoration of a steering wheel. It stops after the routing of the mould for the rim and promises to be continued in next month’s issue. Luckily, I shall still be here. The Jowett’s steering wheel is in a very poor state, the rim resembling a rotting limb with its flesh crumbling to reveal in places its steel spine. If the remainder of the article is as informative as I anticipate, I shall suck my teeth and hint at some superior knowledge the next time I see the sad carcass.
There is something deeply appealing about this end of the Pyrenees and in all the times that I’ve been here in the last dozen or so years, it’s never failed to delight. I managed 5 trips one year at the height of the cheap flights boom. Properties were none-pence for a short time and I seriously considered buying, but held back. After all, as a Literary Friend observed, ‘what do you do in paradise?’ The Pays Basque has remained an exquisite treat.
How did I come to be here? 25 years ago I rashly volunteered to wash up at Cook’s newly opened restaurant in Bury St Edmunds…… it’s a long story.
As far as my duties as plongeur are concerned, this week is just the limbering up for when the guests arrive. The staff has gathered and we’re enjoying a few days before the storm. Happily, the weather is glorious, as is the food and wine. We go to sleep at night to the curious call of the tree frogs whose conversations ping about the darkness like sonar beeps.
Consulting my diary, I notice that I’ve missed the 11th of May; an important anniversary, but more anon.