Autrefois le Couserans

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August 4th 2009
Published: August 4th 2009
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So many tractors...So many tractors...So many tractors...

....but these little green ones are straight out of Thomas the Tank Engine, big appealing headlamp eyes and all
We’ve just had a wonderful weekend. Friends invited us over to stay with them in the Couserans, a part of the Ariège well to the west of us, and this meant that apart from exploring an area we still don’t know well, we had plenty of time in St. Girons.

St. Girons is one of the larger towns of the Ariège and the major town of the Couserans. It has the best market in the whole Department. This weekend it was especially good, because the whole town was out to celebrate ‘Autrefois le Couserans’. We’d probably call it ‘The Couserans in Times Gone By’.

The whole area is still largely agriculturural, and the procession we watched when we came back to town on Sunday morning was certainly evidence of that. But as we enjoyed the elderly tractors, the traditional costumes, the working animals, the dances, the hunting horns, the ancient machinery and tools, I thought about how hard the life of the average country family must have been. Over the last few blogs I’ve mentioned the tyranny of the fruit harvest and there have been times when it’s felt as though those fruit trees, with their abundance and their
Not part of the plan...Not part of the plan...Not part of the plan...

......a 2CV gets a helpful push
own timetables have been ruling my days. But I’m just playing at it. It’s not a matter of survival for me to jam and bottle and preserve and cook. If it all gets too much, I simply give the fruit away or even don’t bother to gather it. For the families whose descendants we were watching on Sunday, it was much more important. And of course, through the summer, it wasn’t just fruit that demanded attention, but vegetables, crops, cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, rabbits….. and children and elderly relatives and mending and repairing and cooking.

For us though, as for everyone else who watched and took part, Sunday was just a chance to relax and have fun. When we were hungry, we could enjoy the locally produced croustades, cheeses, sausage, honey, bread and fruit doing nothing more strenuous than getting our money out.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Local Couserans costumesLocal Couserans costumes
Local Couserans costumes

Note the clogs! Story in the last frame.....
Hunting dogHunting dog
Hunting dog

That fearsome collar is to stop it being savaged by wolves, apparently
Hunters in their Hunting GreenHunters in their Hunting Green
Hunters in their Hunting Green

playing us their rousing rallying cry.
A goose gets an easy ride...A goose gets an easy ride...
A goose gets an easy ride...

...before finishing up in the oven anyway, no doubt
And another splendid teamAnd another splendid team
And another splendid team

whose harnesses were strung with tuneful bells
Working oxenWorking oxen
Working oxen

I wasn't sure if the 'curtains' were to keep off the flies, or prevent them being distracted by their surroundings
I felt as if I were back in India...I felt as if I were back in India...
I felt as if I were back in India...

...when these splendid beasts arrived on the scene
And a little music to round things offAnd a little music to round things off
And a little music to round things off

Those clogs. Time for a story. Young noblewoman promised in marriage to a prince. She prefers Horny Handed Son of Toil. The two men fight. HHST wins, slaughters prince, and hands the royal heart to his true love spiked on the end of his clog. Even now, lovers are supposed to exchange clogs as love tokens, presumably without human hearts attached. There are other, more palatable versions of this story. Take your pick.

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