Apart from one slightly alarming stretch, I found an attractive and varied route today. Walking out on the Monbos road to the signpost on the road to Thenac, I followed a loop into Sigoules which turned out to be a ramblers’ footpath much more welcoming than many of those in England. Posts bearing a yellow ring, and a wide mown path clearly marked the way. In the UK you often have to mount rickety stiles, and are likely to meet cattle or crops in a field which has no clear passage through it. Naked ramblers have been known to take to these paths in protest. I was rather relieved that I wasn’t likely to come across any such unattractive specimens here.
On the way out of Sigoules a young man was trimming the hedgerows with a long-bladed powered instrument. The football pitch was being watered with a sprinkler. A racing cyclist sped past. A tractor driver dismounted to adjust his load. A cock provided a clarion brightening the rhythmic plaint of a sombre bachelor woodpigeon. An occasional bee provided the drone, and crickets clacked constant castanets. As Bergerac has just had a flamenco festival, I half expected Spanish dancers to come round the next bend.
Higher up the hill and alongside the slopes overlooking the fields and hamlets below, all was pretty well silent. On this somnolent morning the dominant sound up there was the regular rustling of my footsteps on the recently mown coarse grass. Grasshoppers leaping about reminded me of those Chris and I had collected in our childhood. We enjoyed trotting out with jamjars into which to entrap all kinds of poor creatures. We weren’t knowingly cruel, for we always included a lettuce leaf or other greenery for food, and pierced holes in the lids. In my fifth year, staying with our grandparents in Durham, it had been caterpillars that got the treatment. When we dropped the jar in one of the corridors of the house, Grandma wasn’t exactly overjoyed at the sight of a carpet of crawling grubs fleeing grasping little fingers.
The ramblers’ walk began with the welcoming shade of a wood with private hunting grounds on the left and open fields to the right. Apart from a fairly isolated hamlet and one minor road to cross, the rest was through fields of fenced-in cattle and open vineyards. On a mound at the edge of the wood perched an ancient circular tower. For collecting water?
Slowly descending, I came to a few houses, one of which seemed to be involved in market gardening, with the inevitable vines. The area was littered with farm machinery from various ages, none of which I could identify. Then I saw the notice. Since it was rather faded and I could see no boundary fences whatever, I speculated that it might be a relic of the past. I didn’t really convince myself, so I thought I’d better keep my eyes open. The sign said: ‘Beware of the dog’. Round the next bend it was my ears which alerted me to the canine presence. Following a ferocious yapping, a small terrier shot out of a yard. Simultaneously noticing a dead rat, I thought I’d better be careful. Out flew a second. Dog, not dead rat. Then another. With three terriers vociferously encircling my ankles, just no doubt to add piquancy, out ambled a young Alsation (dog, not person), soon to join in the furore. ‘Just keep going. Don’t act scared’, I told myself, desperately trying to keep my pheronomes in check. Difficult to do when fur is brushing your legs and scratching the mosquito bites which you hope are going to be the only kind you’ll receive this trip. I have to admit I did slacken my pace a little. From behind some bushes a voice called out to the dogs. Rather hopefully, I uttered ‘Bonjour.’ No reply. Eventually I discerned a very elderly, very bent, gentleman who said something to me I couldn’t decipher. As he was grinning, I waved and passed on. Phew! Given that there were four dogs, I considered that the notice had been sneakily misleading.
Eventually I could see the whole of Sigoules laid out to the right, and walked down the edge of a fallow field, emerging by the fishing lake. The church clock chimed noon as I entered rue St. Jacques.
This evening’s fare at Le Code Bar was Calzone and salad followed by chocolate mousse. A couple of glasses of rose complimented it.