River, road and railway-line plait their way through the valleys between Andorra and Foix. The magnificent mountains tower over the small town where we find all basic essentials but the good supermarkets require a drive to Tarascon or Foix.
Charles and Camila, the 8 month old kittens, are unquestionably the ruling class in Colin’s house. They’re beautiful, affectionate and playful. John, who always professed to dislike cats, has even been captivated by their endearing charms.
With slow and careful deliberation, our laid-back host Colin has revealed the finer intricacies of the running of his home. John is far more nervous about caring for the cats than any issues that may arise with the house.
The groundfloor consists of a lounge, kitchen/diner and utility. A steep staircase leads from the kitchen to bathroom, Colin’s room, our tiny room and “the apartment”; a large room with a nice new kitchenette and en-suite shower room. Although formally advertised as sleeping 6, Colin now thinks 4 is really the maximum.
The morning after we arrived, Chantal, the middle-aged neighbour, was called into Colin’s kitchen for introductions, a quick espresso and a smoke. This was our first opportunity to hear his French; a little better than ours but we had no trouble following and participating in most of the conversation. A similar scenario occurred when Bernard, the handyman, dropped in a couple of days later.
French Café Culture seems to be the primary incentive for peeling Colin off his sofa. His bar-of-choice was crammed with character: a large, beamed room with a huge open fireplace, a tree trunk for a mantal and stuffed animals peering out of the gloom on all sides. We were introduced to all the locals; told their relationships, occupations and degree of affability. I wondered which of them will become integral to our story as the months go by.
There seems to be more English in the vicinity than we are used to near our Ariège village. Whilst John was away midweek Colin took me to the Chateau to meet some of the people working on the restoration. What a place and what a project! It’s probably twice the size and in a greater state of disrepair than Dick and Angela’s on “Escape to the Chateau. Kirk and Carrie, the American owners, were away but Carrie was on Skype, discussing details with the workforce in the freezing kitchen. Colin explained my presence, and I called a brief “Hello” to Carrie. We were shown Bernard’s current project; a complete new doorway. Confused by the seemingly haphazard approach to the order of restoration, Doug, the English restoration consultant, explained that the master-plan was subject to the whims of Carrie who could sometimes be a challenging client.
Before getting home we stopped at Terry and Cindy’s. Their friendly chat suggested we could easily become really good friends. They dropped in at ours the following evening for a drink when John had returned and he said the same.
The snow, which had been promised all week, arrived on Friday morning, enabling my first sight of Colin’s Teletubbies Hat! He is a man full of surprises.
This blog is based on truth but for privacy and security many of the names have been changed and some of the story may be embellished at times for dramatic effect.