Sunday, 30 November 2008

lang may yer lum reek

Being St Andrew's Day I felt I had to add a Scottish touch... We were unfortunately correct with our weather prediction. The snow has completely covered La Rhune, but that means that it's raining hard here given our proximity to the beach.

Continuing the Scottish theme I have been pleasantly surprised at the response we get here when I disclose my nationality. The locals seem to be very happy to share in discussing recent defeats of England at rugby! Both of us appear to be fiercely patriotic of our heritage, a good thing. There seem to be lots of other common themes too.

As mentioned we share a love for the oval ball. Both have a variety of other more 'minority' sports that are particular to the regions. Scotland has caber tossing, hammer and sheaf tossing and the stone putt. The Basques have wood chopping, stone lifting, bale tossing and anvil lifting. However Pays Basque also lays claim to Pilota, or Cesta Punta, a wonderful sport. Two teams of two players with large baskets attached to their arm catch and throw a heavy ball at a wall at the end of a large rectangular court. It is a little like squash meets lacrosse meets Deathrace 2000.

Both also have their own language. The Scots have Gaelic, a little spoken tongue partaken in by around 2% of the population. The Basques have Basque which is spoken by over 30% of the people. It is startling that it is still so widely spoken given the harsh attempts by various regimes over the last 100 years to kill off all things Euskadi. At church this morning the service was given in a mix of French and Basque and I can proudly say I managed to sing in both (badly!).

We ended today sipping Ricard at a local bar, Bar Suisse, in the main square of St Jean de Luz, a lovely way to end the weekend. As has so often been the case down here we were made very welcome and enjoyed a myriad of conversations with various locals. I was even given a large tumbler of Macallan to toast St Andrew, slàinte mhòr agad!

Basque of the day:- welcome :: ongi etorri